Each new year, families around the world celebrate their health and happiness with the people they love the most. But what about the 160 million people sitting in shelters or huddling for warmth on a street corner? Imagine all the parents, siblings, and children who will spend another holiday wondering if their homeless family member is alive and well. Thanks to Kevin Adler, founder of Miracle Messages, some of those homeless people know exactly how they will be spending New Year’s Eve: home again, with their families.
Miracle Messages is an initiative in which volunteers record and share short clips of homeless people desperately trying to reunite with their loved ones. Their mission is to “mobilize the internet” for the good of the people and the planet, and aims to reconnect 1 million homeless people with their families by 2021. “Every person we pass on the streets is someone’s somebody and if we saw them that way, we would connect so much better as a society,” says Adler in an informational video.
Adler created Miracle Messages in 2014 in memoriam of his own uncle, who suffered from schizophrenia and died homeless. Adler learned firsthand that even if most people ignore homeless individuals, each is loved dearly by someone else. The project’s website advises to dispose of the harsh judgment and criticism typically given to the homeless, as “the reasons for homelessness are vast and complicated.” It goes on to list eviction, medical bills, domestic violence, unemployment, mental illness, and addiction as potential circumstances for losing stable housing. But never does a person truly suffer than when they are homeless and alone. When a person is disconnected from their family and friends, that is when they need help the most.
Just ask Michael Kelly, a homeless widower who hadn’t seen or heard from his mother or sister in over 10 years. On April 24, 2016, he had the opportunity to record this Miracle Message:
A week later, Kelly’s mother had been located after her son’s story had run in her local newspaper. The next Sunday was Mother’s Day and Kelly was able to see his mother for the first time via video chat. It was an incredibly special day for both mother and son.
A Miracle Message typically features the individual in need, identifying themselves along with the family or friend they are trying to reach. They often add a few heartfelt thoughts to their loved ones. The clip is then shared by Adler or a Miracle Message volunteer on YouTube and Facebook. Adler explains: “Whether it’s I miss you, I’m sorry, I think about you, I love you — I think everyone has the right to say who they love and it’s up to that family member or loved one to then respond however they’d like.” If a family member discovers the clip, they are asked to respond with their own video response, and if both parties are willing to meet in person, a call is arranged by Adler’s organization.
Since its inception, Miracle Messages has successfully reunited 11 people with their loved ones—each with their own heartwarming story that remind us all to love a little more and hold on to who we can. It is these moments of family reconnection where Adler’s faith in humanity and the goodness of the world is wholesomely rewarded. He tells CBS Boston: “That is enormous gratification—to have a homeless individual and their family sitting there together who otherwise hadn’t been in touch for 30 years—say thank you for giving us our family back.”
Kevin Adler and his altruistic mission reminds us that technology does not have to be our enemy. And neither does the homeless community. Instead of averting our eyes as we cross the street or reluctantly handing over our meager loose change, Adler challenges us all to begin a conversation. Miracle Messages believes that everyone has a story to tell. That’s what makes us human. “We don’t want any other moment where we ever have to say again, ‘Gosh, it’s such a big problem, I don’t know what to do about it.’ ” Adler says. Instead, there’s an easy answer: open your hearts and talk.