By Kevin Hall

When Rob Taylor rolled down his car window on Christmas Eve and handed money to an apparently down on his luck man, the state representative from West Des Moines, Iowa had no idea it was he who was about to receive a wondrous gift.

The man was dressed in shabby clothes and holding a sign indicating he was homeless. The temperature was below 15 degrees, but the man’s spirits seemed warm. He was cheerfully saying “Merry Christmas” to passersby.

Taylor felt moved to help this obviously destitute man. He grabbed the cash in his wallet and handed it over. The man responded with a gift for Taylor. Later that night, Rep. Taylor called it the most beautiful & thoughtful Christmas present one could ever wish for.

Taylor’s gift was an envelope, containing the letter below and $10.

Jonnies letter

Rep. Taylor was deeply moved by the man’s actions. He immediately shared the letter and story on social media. The gift has spurred the Taylor family to increase their charitable donations. A day letter, Rob Taylor was still awestruck by his dealings with “Jonnie”.

“His action was one of the kindest and most Christian thing that I’ve ever witnessed,” Taylor told “I left Jonnie a voicemail yesterday that Christi and I intend on donating to an unnamed Christian charity because of his letter and the $10 he gave to me. What he did yesterday brought tears to my eyes. The world needs more Jonnies!”

Jonnie Wright was the man portraying a homeless panhandler. Wright is a customer relations consultant. He spent a total of four hours posing as a homeless man on Christmas Eve, in Des Moines and Ames. It was something he has spent a long time thinking about, as a way to give back to the community.

Wright says he has spent many years struggling to do the right thing. He burned through jobs and relationships. He was always looking for something better, never realizing the change needed to come from within.

Wright says he eventually “blew myself up” in order to rebuild from rock bottom. Along the way, he prayed for guidance from the Lord. Now, a changed man, Jonnie Wright is following through on his promise to God. He will give back, for the greater good.

Jonnie as homelessI am compelled to not only give back but also to help inspire others to perhaps do the same,” Wright told “There were people along my journey who helped inspire me to work through my pain and darkness, to find my way out of my self-created abyss and it is for them and for those who continue to struggle and suffer that I do what I do, for the greater glory of God. I am incredibly humbled by the response to this.”

Those who know Jonnie Wright find him to be one of the most creative people they have ever met. Fittingly, Wright found a very imaginative way to give back. On Christmas Eve, Wright made 50 copies of the letter he gave to Rob Taylor. He attached varying amounts of money to each and stuffed them in 50 envelopes.

Wright donned some ragged clothes that were less than suitable for the freezing temperatures and he spent hours giving back to those who generously helped someone they believed was less fortunate than them. Each time someone stopped to donate, Wright handed that person an envelope.

“Thinking I was homeless, people stopped and gave me cash,” Wright said. “They searched through wallets and purses for paper money and change. They scurried to round up change in their cars. Some drove to ATM’s and returned with cash.”

The response was better than Jonnie Wright could have imagined. Here is one of the many touching stories he shared on Facebook:

“Maria was the first to stop and donate in Des Moines. Her envelope contained $100. She left a voice message on my cell phone and, in tears, said, “I only had $16 but I saw you and wanted to help so I bought some donuts and gave them to you along with a dollar. I have a Christmas get-together with my family tonight and I didn’t know how I was going to get gifts for everybody. Now I can.”

Many people Jonnie Wright interacted with on Christmas Eve called him later that night or the next day. Not only were they thankful for the gift, they were joyous for the unique way their brief meeting helped encapsulate the spirit of the Christmas season.

“The ironic connections and incredible moments of fate over the past 24 hours are, to me, the living breathing proof that there is no coincidence, there is no fate, there is God, and that those who do not believe in him really aren’t paying attention,” Wright said.

Altogether, to aid this seemingly homeless man on Christmas Eve, people donated $363.02, three pepperoni sandwiches, two donuts, a pack of M&M’s, an apple and a pair of gloves. On Christmas Day, Jonnie Wright gave food, the gloves and $1,000 to the Bethel Mission, a men’s emergency shelter that serves Des Moines’ inner city.

Jonnie Wright’s unique experiment of giving back for the greater good touched many lives in ways he could not have imagined. On a day where millions of people around the world celebrated the spirit of giving, Jonnie Wright captured the essence of that feeling and shared it with a few fortunate Iowa souls.

“I have no adequate words,” Wright said. “I have cried like a baby over and over these last two days, at once humbled, at once broken, at once euphoric. I can’t spread my arms wide enough to show how full of love and joy my heart is. I am a customer service trainer but today I have been humbled by how little I know or understand about the power of human kindness.”

Looking back on his interaction with Jonnie Wright, the Christmas Spirit stirred in Rob Taylor in ways that it never had before.

“It brought tears to my eyes and made me so grateful to be a Believer,” Taylor said.


About the Author;

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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