What makes a good person? It’s someone who selflessly gives without advertising it. Some give so they can share with others their good deeds; others give simply out of the kindness of their hearts. The following people represent the latter.
Sure, these folks are endlessly wealthy. But I’m willing to wager that all of them would’ve done the exact same thing—save the dollar amount—if they didn’t have millions watching their every move. It seems they did it because they wanted to, because it gave their beneficiaries a warmer life. You can learn a thing or two about these acts of casual generosity that utterly transformed the lives of those they helped. Because it’s not the riches that makes one’s life rich; it’s how you use it to better humanity.
Rapper T.I. has been in and out of prison on convictions ranging from crack distribution to weapons charges. On paper, he’s a criminal; but in person, the guy is a saint. In 2010 he talked a man out of suicide.
T.I. was on his way to a video shoot when he learned that a man was about to jump from a 22-story building in Atlanta. “Something in me just said, ‘Man you gotta try and help. You gotta do whatever you can.’” He did the only thing he could—record a video message for the jumper: “Nothing is that bad. Nothing in life is worth taking your life,” T.I. said. “I’m here to help you. Please come down and talk to me.” It apparently worked, so the man immediately stepped down from the ledge and met with T.I. in the lobby. They spoke for a few minutes, and the man was later transported to Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital.
A month prior, cops arrested him for ecstasy and marijuana possession.
But this is only the “Tip” of the iceberg when it comes to T.I.’s heroism. Singer of Creed Scott Stapp, had an encounter with him that changed his life forever. As the story goes, Stapp was in the midst of an awful drug binge. At a Miami hotel he began seeing visions of being locked in asylum and imagined voices telling him to jump from a 40-foot balcony. And he did. Said Stapp: “I laid out there for two and a half hours and my guardian angel showed up—rapper T.I. He immediately took care of the situation and saved my life.” The musician suffered a fractured skull, broken hip, and a broken nose. So without T.I. being there, Stapp would probably be pushing daisies.
9. Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis is often typecast as a clueless goofball with no sense of right and wrong. But that’s not who he is. In 1994, long before he became famous, he was just another LA dreamer. He’d visit Fox Coin Laundry in Santa Monica, and it is presumed he put his pants on one leg at a time. At the laundromat he met Elizabeth Haist, an elderly lady who offered to fold people’s clothes for tips.
It was friendship at first sight.
In 2011, nearly 20 years later, Galifianakis learned that the 87-year-old had fallen on hard times and became homeless. So he set her up in a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica and paid her rent. He also brought her on the red carpet for the movie premieres of Hangover 2, The Campaign, and Hangover 3 as his date.
When asked about Galifianakis making it in show biz, Haist told the NY Daily News: “Maybe he has his own washer and dryer now.”
8. Marilyn Manson
To most people, Marilyn Manson is the spawn of Satan, a man referred to as the “Antichrist Superstar” with a penchant for cutting himself on stage. But his work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation would suggest otherwise. In 2002 he flew out 16-year-old Andrew Baines (who was terminally ill) to Los Angeles to spend an afternoon with him. His one wish was to sing “backup vocals for a big band.” After letting the Tennessee teen record vocals for the album The Golden Age of Grotesque, Manson wrote in his online journal, “Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with Andrew, who reminded me the things I create are only made complete by those who enjoy them. I just want to simply say, ‘thank you’ to Andrew for sharing such an important wish with me.”
7. Britney Spears
In 2005, Britney Spears donated $590,000 to charity. But the following year this monumental act of kindness would be overshadowed by her “meltdown.” Spears would shave her head and attack the paparazzi with an umbrella. (For comparison, Leonardo DiCaprio—whose philanthropic exploits are often advertised—donated $48,025 in the same year.) Recipients of her generosity included Hurricane Katrina relief, Habitat for Humanity, and then-husband Kevin Federline’s rap album.
6. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise. You might know him as a devout Scientologist and general crazy person whose hubris knows no bounds. But let’s be clear: The guy’s a damn hero. Not just in movies, but in real life.
In 1996, Cruise witnessed a hit-and-run. A car slammed into an aspiring Brazilian actress and took off. She suffered a broken leg and bruised ribs. Cruise—recently hot off the Mission Impossible set—followed the ambulance to the UCLA Medical Center, where he learned the young lady was uninsured. He whipped out $7,000 for her bill.
And then there’s that one time he rescued five people from a burning sailboat in the Mediterranean. And oh yeah, there’s that other time he transported a man who was crushed by a 700-pound slab of stone on the set of Oblivion with his private jet to a doctor. It seems Cruise’s gallantry on the silver screen often spills into his real life on a routine basis.
5. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Sure, Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a prolific criminal with a rap sheet longer than a roll of toilet paper. But to people who knew him, he was the furthest thing from an old dirty bastard.
In February 1997 he peered out of his Brooklyn studio window to witness a car accident. A young boy had been trapped underneath a Mustang, the engine burning, the child alive. ODB leaped into action, organizing a dozen people to help lift the car off the kid. Days after the fact, he would visit the boy in the hospital under an alias as to not alert the media. But the media eventually caught on and he stopped. That’s called humility.
Sadly, Ol’ Dirty Bastard died in 2004 from a drug overdose.
4. Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen broke the Internet (and every other form of broadcast) in 2011—just by being Charlie Sheen. He spoke of “winning,” and his “tiger blood,” and his penchant for cocaine. This led the world to view him in a negative light.
But Sheen, who recently came out as HIV positive, has always been an altruist. Ironically he was given the AFA Angel Award in 2009 (two years before his diagnosis) for his massive donations to Aid for AIDS. Although he’s always been a stellar giver within this realm, he vowed last month to a life of philanthropy. “I accept this condition not as a curse or scourge, but rather as an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to help others.”
Fun fact: In 2012 after the filming of Scary Movie 5, he gave away his entire $250,000 pay check ($150,000 to charity and $100,000 to Lindsay Lohan to help her with her tax troubles). He also once gave a young Florida girl $10,000 to buy a therapy dog after she’d fallen 100 feet at an amusement park. Finally, he gave a million bucks to USO, a soldier-morale-boosting organization, in 2012.
Winning he is.
3. Shia LaBeouf
Remember those fabulously pink leggings Shia LaBeouf wore? He was doing that for breast cancer research. In fact, his pretty pink tights raised $10,000. He’s also donated to military vets and impoverished African villages. Though the rep of Shia LaBeouf is now tainted with public intoxication episodes, a hideous rat tail, and an alleged act of plagiarism during a rap battle, it’s obvious he’s a good egg.
2. Rebecca Black
In 2011, Rebecca Black wrote the “worst song ever written.” Since its debut, it’s received more than 88 million views on YouTube. Black quickly gained a reputation as a horrific musical artist, arguably undeserved, but she didn’t keep one penny of the proceeds. Everything she earned went to charity and to her high school. (According to Ben Sisario of the New York Times, the song “yielded a back-of-the-envelope total of about $40,000.”)
1. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson is a self-described anarchist. His father was a hitman. He’s often typecast as either a psycho (Natural Born Killers, 1994) or an idiot (EdTV, 1999). But psycho-idiot he is not. In June 2012 after leaving a birthday party in New York City, a panhandler approached him. She asked him for change, to which Harrelson gave her a wad of bills totaling $600.