When many people lose their job, they immediately save everything they have, plagued with worry about how they're going to survive without a steady source of income. Tim Owens is not one of those people.
Instead, he's the kind of person who cashes his final paycheck — and then gives it all away. "I was in my truck, and I had literally the last check in hand," he told A Plus. While waiting at a stop light, he asked himself a series of questions he didn't have any answers to: "Okay, what next? What do I do? Who do I call?" Having worked as a film director in the same company "for quite a few years," he was suddenly at a loss.
That was when he saw a homeless man sitting at the intersection. "Immediately [I] just became overwhelmed with what I do have. I realized, you know... I'm in an air-conditioned car, and I was driving home with a roof over my head, food in the pantry, a wife and kids at home," he explained. "...Inspired by that gentleman sitting there, I realized how much I really have and that things are gonna be okay. And so, in that moment… I saw this check sitting here, and I had this crazy idea of, 'What if I just gave this away to people that did need it?'"
With his wife's encouragement and some help from a makeup artist friend, a week later, Owens stood on that same street corner, handing out every cent of his last paycheck to strangers, $50 at a time.
"Once I was out there, I kind of felt... it was many, many, many experiences," Owens explained. "I felt really alone like, 'Oh my gosh, this is weird. This is hard to be out there.' The way people look at you, the way people interact with you when they think you're a homeless person was an experience all in and of itself."
It was far from the only experience that would impact Owens that day — and every day since.
He considers his "greatest experience" from the social experiment two-fold. The first: A man, featured in the film, sitting in a work truck refused to take Owens' money. "Finally after begging him into taking the money, he explained to me that he just, you know, paid his bills, and he didn't know what to do," he said. "And that, to me, was a really huge moment." The other was a gentleman "who really got the whole concept right there on the spot" and told Owens, "No, you know what? There's a guy right there in that car, go give it to him."
"For him to get the whole point of all of this in that moment was really impactful for me," Owens said.
That was three years ago.
Only now has the world been made aware of Owens' selfless act in his short documentary, Being Human. "I wanted to keep the moment really pure because I know people do this. I know people give things away and do that, and I really didn't want it to be perceived as like some type of self-gratification…" he said. "I wanted to capture that moment so I knew if I was back in this place again, I wanted to have the right perspective because it felt very rare."
The sole reason Owens even made a video of the experience was for himself. Over time, he began sharing it with close family and friends in normal conversation. Their reactions not only surprised Owens, but eventually compelled him to "give this away… tell this story." After shooting the additional interview part of the video just a few weeks ago, he edited that and the raw footage together, publishing the final product to YouTube on April 3. The next day, Humankind shared a shortened version of the documentary, which received more than one million views. "It's overwhelming, the response," Owens said. "Everyone's response to it is just really cool."
With such a positive and powerful response already, it's encouraged and inspired Owens to pursue kindness "on a bigger platform." Using his talent and tools in television and films, he "would love to create something bigger."
He's already aiming to do so through a new initiative, "Be Kind With Us," a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $20,000 "to create the first episode of our new docu-series" focused "on finding good kind people who just need a little kindness in their lives." While the page has only raised a small fraction of that goal, that's because Owens, staying true to his intentions of keeping the experience "in its purest form possible," has purposefully shied away from publicizing the fundraising page.
"I would love to create this ongoing experience and help people in ways that I can't do by myself…" Owens said. "To continue this type of impact just would be really fulfilling, I think, on a humanitarian level."
Owens hopes his film encourages everyone "as people" — as humans, one might say — to "look for what you can give and what you can do… if that moment can come, that's a really beautiful thing."