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Homeless Man Steals Woman's Purse at the Park, Finds Photo of His Mother in It — Story of the Day

Manuela Cardiga
Dec 15, 2021
05:20 P.M.

A man steals an old woman's purse in the park and makes an extraordinary discovery that ends up transforming his life.

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Timothy Oster had been living on the streets for so long that he'd forgotten he'd ever lived any other way. At thirty-five, he was hardened, angry, and like so many other homeless people, he deadened the pain with drink.

Twenty years on the streets meant that Tim was a survivor, and the things he did to survive weren't always exactly legal, or pleasant. Tim had no friends because no one trusted him, and he trusted no one. It is hard to imagine a lonelier life.

Timothy's life was miserable, and he had long forgotten it had ever been different | Source: Shutterstock.com

Timothy's life was miserable, and he had long forgotten it had ever been different | Source: Shutterstock.com

Once, long ago, Tim had been happy. He had lived with his mom in a small apartment in East Harlem, and maybe it hadn't been Easy Street, but Ellie Oster had been street-wise and funny, and her son's best friend.

Ellie also had a drug problem, but she had always made sure Tim was safe, clean, and well-fed. Social Services had come around once or twice, but despite her problems, they had to admit Ellie was a good mom.

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"We're family!" Ellie would cry fiercely. "It's just us two in the whole world -- remember that!"

Tim remembered. He remembered that as he grew older, Ellie had grown less pretty and more desperate, and sometimes he'd begged her to stop using, to go to rehab. Ellie had said, "I can't leave you, buddy! Remember, it's just us two in the whole world!"

Despite her problems, Ellie was a good and loving mother | Source: Unsplash

Despite her problems, Ellie was a good and loving mother | Source: Unsplash

On the terrible night when Ellie died, a fire had broken out in their rat-trap apartment building, and there was no way out. Ellie had thrown a chair through the window and let in the icy air, which had only made the flames leap higher.

Elie pushed Tim into the waiting fireman's arms, and screamed, "GO!" When they came back for her, it was too late. The shivering, weeping Tim had been taken in by Child Services, but a week later, he ran away.

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"It's just me in the whole world, mom," he whispered, and that was how he had been living since then, footloose and free, with an eye on the main chance. Tim looked around him.

Life can plunge us into darkness, but there is always hope that we can find the light.

"Hey, hey!" he whistled. The opportunity was calling and Tim was going to answer the call! Just a few hundred meters away from the bench where he was sitting, an older lady was walking her dog.

To save Tim from the fire, Ellie sacrificed her life | Source: Unsplash

To save Tim from the fire, Ellie sacrificed her life | Source: Unsplash

The dog had gotten all tangled up in its lead, and the woman set her bag down beside her while she tried to free the snappy little dog, who was getting more and more frightened by the minute.

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Tim approached quietly, but the older lady was so focused on the dog she didn't notice him pick up her bag and walk calmly away. A little further away Tim broke into a jog.

If the purse was fat, it could mean a few nights in a cheap hotel, a dozen square meals... Under a bridge, Tim squatted down and opened the purse. There were lots of old lady things which he threw away, but he kept a gold compact.

Tim opened the wallet and grinned. $520! This was so great! And some credit cards too. Tim didn't use credit cards, but Benny the Geek would pay at least $50 for each card...

Since Ellie's death Tim had been living on the streets | Source: Pexels

Since Ellie's death Tim had been living on the streets | Source: Pexels

Then Tim saw a photo in the plastic insert on the wallet and froze. It couldn't be! With trembling fingers, he pulled out the photo. It was Ellie, a very young Ellie with her blond hair long and shiny, but that same dazzling smile.

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"Oh, mom!" he whispered. "I didn't even have a photo of you, how did this woman..." Tim dug out the woman's ID. Wanda Solomon Oster, age seventy-four. He lept to his feet, stuffed everything back into the purse, and ran back to where the old woman stood with her dog.

The leash was untangled, but the woman was looking around her in bewilderment, clearly wondering where her purse had gone to. Tim approached her slowly and stretched out the hand that was holding the purse.

"Lady," he said. "I'm sorry, I took this..."

Tim saw the woman untangling the leash and stole her purse | Source: Pexels

Tim saw the woman untangling the leash and stole her purse | Source: Pexels

The woman gasped and tore the purse from his hands. She pulled out her wallet and opened it. "I didn't take any of your money, lady!" Tim said.

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"I don't care about the money," the woman cried. "Where's the photo? I want my photo!"

Tim held out the photo. "Please, I just want to know where you got this photo, please."

The old lady snatched the photo from Tim's fingers and looked at it. "It's my daughter, it's the last photo I took of my daughter before..."

Tim found his mother's photo inside the wallet | Source: Unsplash

Tim found his mother's photo inside the wallet | Source: Unsplash

"Your daughter...Ellie?" asked Tim.

The woman gasped. "How do you know her name?" she cried. "Who are you?"

Tim started crying. "Ellie was my mom, I'm her son, so I guess you're my grandmother."

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The woman grasped Tim's face in her hands. "You have her eyes! Oh, I've been looking for Ellie for so long, I wanted to beg her forgiveness, ask her to come home..."

Tim found himself part of a happy family | Source: Unsplash

Tim found himself part of a happy family | Source: Unsplash

The woman was sobbing. "Ellie took up with a man I didn't like, she started doing drugs...I made her leave, told her to come back when she was clean -- but I regretted it. I never stopped looking for her."

"I'm sorry," Tim whispered. "Ellie died twenty years ago." The woman was weeping and Tim put his arms around her and cried for Ellie for the first time since he was a boy.

He rocked his grandmother in his arms and whispered, "It's alright, it's us two in the whole world!"

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That afternoon, Tim took his grandmother to see Ellie's grave, and that night, he went home for the first time in twenty years.

It wasn't easy, of course, you don't break the habits of twenty years overnight, but with his grandmother and his family's love and support, Tim straightened out his life. He wasn't alone anymore, and he never would be again.

What can we learn from this story?

  • None of us is ever truly alone, while we have love in our hearts. Tim lived with the memory of his mother's love and her sacrifice in his heart.
  • Life can plunge us into darkness, but there is always hope that we can find the light. Tim's life had led him to homelessness and petty crime but fate brought him back to his family.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a woman who is stunned when she sees her dead husband blinking in his coffin.

This account is inspired by our reader’s story and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com

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