Homeless man inspires passersby with positive signs

KING 5's Jake Whittenberg reports.

Ray Conger feels like he has the best corner in the city of Anacortes. And it's hard to miss him and his bright colorful signs.

"I feel like I was supposed to be here believe it or not," he said.

Conger is homeless.

Strolling along Q Avenue, he refuses to hold signs that beg or money or "will work for food." Instead, he's offering inspiring words of encouragement to drivers who pass him by.

"Happi"
"I luv ya"
"Take me with!"

"I get honks all day long," said Conger. "Four out of five people have a positive response."

Yes, people stop by with the occasional dollar or bag of lunch. But what keeps Conger going is that he's inspiring his audience. 

"I wasn't even sure if he was homeless or just a guy making people smile," said Marlo Lynn.

Lynn spotted Conger's signs just like the others. And she was so touched the simple act of kindness, she stopped to meet him.

"I just wanted to know his story and know more about him," she said.

Conger is from California where he originally worked a job as a postman. When he got laid off, he took a job as an airplane mechanic at Naval Station Whidbey Island.

He has a son. But a series of events prevented Conger from staying in close touch.

And after sustaining an injury on the flight line, Conger was unable to work. Money from disability and the post office dried up and Conger was forced to live in his truck – five years running now.

"People don't realize how close they are to this happening to them too," he said. "You might be just one paycheck away."

That's another reason his decision to make the signs is even more inspiring.

Today, others are starting to pay it forward.

"You see Ray and think, 'Well if he can have a great day so can I,'" said Mark Leone, owner of the Capsante Inn.

Leone donated a room for Conger, so he wouldn't have to live in his truck.

Lynn launched a GoFundMe account that's raising thousands of dollars for Conger. Most of it pays for doctors' visits to help heal the injury to his foot.  

Her band, 'Old Town Tonic,' takes Conger to gigs around town. They've even released a song called 'Ray of Sunshine.'

And if Conger wants breakfast, the tab is always open 'on the house' at Dad's Diner.

"Ray has the ability to change your day," said owner Fletcher McLean. "It's important for all of us to understand the roll that we play in each other's lives. Whether we are strangers or ultimately friends."

The love is growing. And Conger feels more compelled than ever to make your day.

"And when I get healed I hope to be a pillar in this community someday," Conger said, with his signature smile. "For now this makes me feel like I'm somebody."

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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