A Woman’s Purse is Stolen, But the Encounter Leads Her to Save Someone’s Life
What would you do if your expensive purse was stolen? Worse, imagine if, after a few days, you saw the exact same purse on a homeless person. Would you call the cops? Would you confront them, or would you forcibly take it back?
This was the real-life situation Kaitlyn Smith faced when her purse was stolen. Little did she know that her encounter would also change her life—and someone else’s—forever.
Kaitlyn Smith Was Robbed
Kaitlyn was going about her routine in June 2017 when a thief broke into her car. In a swift and calculated move, the perp saw her spare keys and used them to invade her home in the picturesque Patterson Park neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.
Fortunately, the house was guarded by her dog. As it barked the thief away, the intruder quickly fled. Unfortunately, he took with him Smith’s beloved purse. Smith canceled all her credit cards immediately, but she knew she would never see her purse again.
Aeric McCoy Was Also A Victim Of Theft
In another part of the city, another case of theft was unfolding. As Aeric McCoy went through the twin horrors of battling addiction and homelessness, his sleeping bag—his sole source of comfort—was stolen from him.
The only people he could turn to were those he worked for—drug dealers. Though desperate, he was determined to break off his relationship with the dealers. Being an addict for so long, he felt his life had no more value. But something compelled him to fight and never give up.
Finding A Lost Purse
McCoy was looking for a safe place to stay in a dark alley behind an old abandoned row house, and something caught his eye. He didn’t expect to see a purse—in perfect condition—in the middle of a dingy street.
He was about to walk away when he felt there was a voice telling him to do the right thing and return the purse to its rightful owner. It was then that he decided to start the journey that would alter the course of his life.
The Search For The Owner
McCoy curiously looked inside the purse and saw an electric bill. Written on it was the home address of the person he assumed was the purse’s owner. At the market in Upton, he asked someone to Google the address. However, it would be too far for him to walk.
Still, this did not stop him from finding a way. For some reason, he felt determined to reach the owner despite it being located on the far side of town. Luckily, a stranger bought him a subway pass.
McCoy made it his personal mission to return the purse—by hook or by crook. As he carried it to its intended address, many women caught a glimpse of it. Some of them offered to purchase it from him. However, he managed to refuse the prices they proposed.
He continued to walk despite feeling exhausted. He couldn’t help but think that he had missed an opportunity to get some easy cash in exchange for selling the purse. But this didn’t deter him—he knew he had to fulfill his goal.
A Rare Sight
What are the chances of the purse’s owner meeting the person who found her prized possession? It would be a rare encounter indeed, but that was what exactly happened as Kaitlyn Smith walked down the street on her way to a friend’s party.
She saw a man dressed in rags walking towards her while clutching her stolen purse. Stunned, she approached the stranger and attempted to make an offer. But to her surprise, the man declared that the bag belonged to a woman he was trying to reach.
Relief At Last
When Smith revealed that she was the owner, McCoy felt relief that he did not need to go far. Finally, he could return the purse to its rightful place. She felt grateful for McCoy’s efforts in bringing it to her personally.
Moved by his selflessness, Smith decided to repay his generosity by gifting him a new sleeping bag, clothes, a sturdy backpack, and a flashlight. She also drove him back to the other side of town. During the car ride, the two strangers talked about their lives.
Returning The Favor
Still overwhelmed by McCoy’s unwavering resolve to return the purse she lost, Smith felt that she had to repay his kindness in any way possible. She then made an offer she thought McCoy could not refuse.
When she spoke to CBS 8, Smith recounted how she wanted to help McCoy secure employment with her contractor. At that time, the contractor was seeking a hardworking day laborer. But to her surprise, McCoy humbly declined the job offer, confessing his crippling struggle with addiction.
The Long And Winding Road
Aeric McCoy was a victim of homelessness. Earlier in his life, he had fallen prey to the vices of addiction but was able to move past it. He remained clean for eight long years. During that time, he built a life for himself and started a successful landscaping business.
He also secured a home and a car. Most importantly, he had the privilege of raising his daughter. But fate dealt a cruel blow in 2012 when a catastrophic car accident erased all the progress he had made.
From One Addiction To Another
McCoy’s recovery from the accident proved to be difficult as the constant pain drove him to seek refuge in the numbing embrace of painkillers. He spiraled down the abyss of addiction, thereby causing his savings to evaporate.
As his home slipped away, he re-discovered heroin. His descent to addiction was swift and merciless. When he hit rock bottom, he had to rely on a relative for support but was kicked out when his addiction became uncontrollable. He found himself at the mercy of street dealers.
The Million Dollar Question
The moment of truth arrived for Aeric McCoy as Smith posed an important question. She asked him if he wanted to remain an addict. Smith described to CBS 8 McCoy’s heart-wrenching response.
He told her he wanted to be a part of his daughter’s life. He felt miserable as an addict and wanted to be free. McCoy revealed that two weeks before he met Smith, he cried out to the heavens and declared to God that he could no longer continue to live in misery.
Going To Rehab
McCoy declared his intention to break free from addiction. His desire to reclaim his life trumped his drug habit, so he called a Florida rehab facility and asked to be checked in. First, however, he needed to find a way to get there.
Smith gave McCoy her phone number and an incredible proposal. She volunteered to buy him a plane ticket to Florida to start his healing journey. It was her way of expressing her deep appreciation for McCoy’s efforts to return her purse.
McCoy Accepted The Offer
After a few days, Aeric McCoy decided to travel to Florida. His heart was full of hope as he contacted Smith. As it turns out, he called her on Father’s Day—a day that held special meaning in his heart.
McCoy shared that the mother of his daughter granted him a chance to see his little girl once again. First, however, a condition must be met—he needed to seek treatment, get clean, and get his life in order. Smith wasted no time and drove McCoy to the airport.
The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
McCoy’s path to recovery was not easy, but he was determined to make it through. He reached out to Smith every day to update her on his progress. Their friendship served as a lifeline of hope. Eventually, their bond grew stronger, and they became steadfast friends.
Smith even created a GoFundMe page on McCoy’s behalf to raise funds for his transition out of rehab. She discovered that there was a lack of support available to those in recovery after their rehab program ended.
Doing More For McCoy
Smith and McCoy’s daily conversations further revealed more of his struggles. Smith made it her mission to help him—she took to GoFundMe and rallied her loved ones to support his cause. Amazingly, she was able to collect the funds McCoy needed for his treatment.
Smith also learned about the broken system McCoy and others like him were in. She saw how addicts were rarely given help or off-ramps and how such a situation prevented them from recovering fully. But through her tireless efforts, things were going to change.
Waiting For Smith To Back Out
One way McCoy expressed his gratitude for Smith’s unwavering support was by giving her a drawing and an earnest letter of thanks. He was aware of the trouble he put her through. He wanted to give her an opportunity to leave if she ever felt burdened.
However, Smith’s commitment to him never wavered. She stood steadfast in her belief that addiction is a disease, not a reflection of one’s character. She stayed by his side for every step of his 90-day journey toward recovery.
Sober For 90 Days And Counting
McCoy’s rehab experience helped Smith understand why many addicts suffer relapses so frequently. With powerful painkillers being offered so liberally and addiction treatment so rarely, She couldn’t help but feel angry that people like McCoy were not given support after completing a 28-day program.
Smith made sure she offered an unwavering commitment to McCoy’s sobriety. She stood by his side through the first 90 days and well beyond. Smith’s tireless efforts served as a beacon of hope to those who are still in the grip of addiction.
Moving To A Halfway House
After 28 days in rehabilitation, McCoy had to move to a halfway house. Though he was full of newfound hope, the worst was far from over, as the halfway house demanded a monthly fee of $450. His costs were going up and up. Once again, McCoy wanted to step away. He didn’t want to be a burden.
Fortunately, Smith didn’t give up on him. She waged a battle to reinstate McCoy’s insurance. Though the odds seemed insurmountable, she fought tirelessly to see her friend achieve a brighter future.
Almost Born Again
McCoy was excited upon his release from rehab. Smith had to post an update on his progress on his GoFundMe page. She described how he got a job at Taco Bell and then rode to the beach on a borrowed bike. Real transformational healing was finally taking place.
McCoy then swam in the ocean and felt like the waters baptized him to become a new person. Smith and McCoy could not believe the support he received from those who were aware of his story.
Holding Him Accountable
On the 44th day of his recovery, McCoy continued to focus on his goal. He also had a daily habit of riding to the beach and doing regular yard work in order to keep himself busy. McCoy made sure he attended AA meetings every day.
When Smith saw McCoy’s determination to stay sober, his steadfastness inspired her to commit to the virtues both agreed on to make his recovery possible—they were to regularly practice honesty and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
One Day At A Time
McCoy was slowly but surely on his way to recovery. He was starting to envision his future with remarkable clarity at the suggestion of McCoy’s family friend—also a former addict—who told McCoy that he should visualize a time when he was free from drugs.
Smith described how he would regularly imagine putting up his lawn care business as well as living in a house with his daughter. Such a goal aided McCoy in taking his recovery seriously. It had to come one day at a time.
While McCoy was in Florida, the GoFundMe page Smith created was able to raise thousands of dollars for his recovery. Smith also made sure she updated all the donors with regard to McCoy’s steady progress.
McCoy himself also sent his supporters regular messages about how far along he was in his sobriety. He also acknowledged Smith’s compassion as essential for giving him hope to push on and never give up. Addiction can rarely be tackled alone—it’s a disease that takes a whole community to help fix.
Making Do With Little
McCoy’s experience with hope made his continued recovery possible. He wasn’t holding onto any hopes of finding a better job or finding love due to his addiction. He felt he needed to truly break his attachment to drugs before he could make a positive change.
His initial objective was to simply not feel sick each day. To further complete his transformation, he had to use the funds collected to go to Baltimore, as McCoy’s halfway house hardly provided enough medical and mental support.
The Challenge Of Going Home
Upon returning to Baltimore, McCoy faced further obstacles. For one, he had to pay his bills, like anyone else. He also found it difficult to get a job because of his history of addiction. He also did not have transportation of his own—a significant impairment in the US.
Through it all, McCoy and Smith’s friendship remained strong. Smith continued to support his sobriety. McCoy also enrolled in an outpatient program for 90 days at Maryland’s John Hopkins. Eventually, he tried to rebuild his landscaping business.
Repairing His Life
Things were looking up. He was able to retrieve his equipment from his old landscaping trade. While some things had to be replaced, he had enough to get back on track. He fixed his old truck and was soon able to get around again.
Through it all, he kept his supporters updated on his progress. He issued a request to anyone who wanted to continually support him, asking them to hire him for work after the winter season—he was an expert and professional landscaper, after all.
An Unexpected Obstacle
Unfortunately, McCoy experienced an unexpected setback—he suffered a seizure while driving. Though its cause was unknown, a toxicology report confirmed that McCoy was not under the influence during the accident. Nonetheless, he lost his truck.
McCoy was devastated about losing his vehicle. Still, he believed that things happened for a reason and that if this were a test, he would pass it no matter what it took. McCoy plodded on, and Smith similarly supported McCoy’s efforts to push forward with a positive mindset.
Remaining Headstrong In The Face Of Challenges
Despite the obstacles ahead, McCoy continued to be headstrong. Upon reaching a full year in his recovery from addiction, he was pleased to report that his landscaping business was flourishing. More importantly, McCoy was happy and feeling healthy.
Meanwhile, McCoy and Smith continued to be good friends. Smith believes that she met McCoy for a reason. At the very least, he helped her understand that addiction is not a choice but a disease—and that it can be treated with compassion—and on a case-by-case basis.
On The Road To Sobriety
McCoy continues to be sober and is forever grateful for finding Smith’s purse at the right place and at the right time. He even considers the situation as a form of divine intervention, which proved to be instrumental in saving his life.
Meanwhile, Smith’s life was similarly changed. Her unexpected relationship with a former addict opened her eyes to the realities of addiction. It also gave her a new purpose in life. She eventually quit her medical sales job to do something more meaningful.
Smith Also Had A Transformation In Her Life
Smith began working as a consultant for addiction treatment with Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a group operating various rehabilitation facilities nationwide. Her vital work touches the lives of those who struggle with the disease.
Her responsibilities now include going to hospitals to talk to social workers, clinicians, and case managers to assist them in identifying those who have addictions so that those left behind can find their way back to health and society. It’s not always easy, but the service she provides is priceless.
Smith also saw the need to launch her very own group In 2018. She built “AAdvocate” to honor Aeric McCoy and to pay homage to the help provided by Alcoholics Anonymous to those who are prone to the spell of addiction.
AAdvocate’s goal is to support anyone struggling with addiction by providing them with housing, transportation, and employment. Its creation was borne out of Smith’s belief that guidance should be available to those freshly discharged from rehab facilities. The organization supports those in recovery in the Baltimore area.