A year ago, Curtis Butler, III was homeless and sleeping in his car. He attempted suicide twice. This week, he is giving money to those less fortunate.
Butler, 45, is a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. When he returned home with his disability, he was initially denied benefits and he fell on hard times. He lost contact with his children. He had no home, no money and no hope. Twice, he overdosed on pills and alcohol.
"I figured nobody cared about me," Butler told ABC News. "I had to worry about paying bills. I didn't love myself or anyone else."
But Butler finally did get his benefits and turned his life around. On Monday, he made the holidays a little bit easier for two dozen strangers. Butler was standing in line at a Georgia Power office waiting to pay his utility bill. He heard another customer talking about how difficult it had been to make ends meet. He paid that couple's $230 bill and then kept going. When he was finished, he had doled out $2,000 to pay power bills for 20 people.
"This was the anniversary of me being homeless and now I am putting smiles on other people's faces," Butler told ABC News.
One woman's power had been turned off at her home because she didn't have any money to pay her bill. Butler paid it for her and then gave her more cash for her children.
"I told her, your kids can't open their presents on Christmas morning with no lights on… And now, they have more money for food or presents," Butler said.
Genice Harris, a clerk at the Georgia Power office told ABC affiliate WSB that everyone was stunned. "I could tell it was spontaneous and he was smiling and people were like, 'I can't believe this.' They actually started taking pictures with this guy," Harris said.
She choked back tears as she talked about Butler. "There really is a God and…. He does send people to help others that are in need," Harris said.
"I have been there and done it, been close to eating out of trash cans….I was the one on the street with my hand out asking for some change," Butler told ABC News. "God put me in that predicament, so that one day I could help others."
Butler has written a book about living with PTSD and he has a website to promote his efforts advocating new programs for disabled veterans. In his book, "PTSD: My Story, Please Listen!" he writes about returning home and falling on hard times.
"Just because we have PTSD, doesn't mean we are not good people," Butler said. "We come back from fighting in a war and we can't get a job… It is hard to tell your kid that 'I can't support you because I am homeless after fighting for our country.'"
But Butler now is getting the help he needs. He gets counseling through his church. He reconnected with his children. And now he owns an apartment and is about to get married.
"One night I prayed and I asked God, 'can you reveal to me my wife?' And he said, 'Yeah stupid, you sit next to [her in ] church every Sunday'....God works miracles and wonders every day," Butler said.
This is not the first time he has been a Good Samaritan. Last year, he bought haircuts for 200 homeless vets and the people of his community.
Butler says he knows all about falling on hard times and is happy now that he can be generous with others. As for next year's good deed, Butler hasn't decided. "Me and God are going to talk about that," he said.
- Society & Culture
- Politics & Government