Lessons in Humanity – The John Gordon Story

Meet John Gordon of Riverside California. His life got a rough start. A VERY rough start. Unfortunately, his story is told much too often. And, not many  of these story tellers overcome horrendous obstacles and make good lives for themselves. Even FEWER of them take what they learned from their obstacles to start a movement to help others- unconditionally.  This is the story of John Gordon – Rough Start – Successful Business Man – Creator of RAOK (Random Acts of Kindness). He runs this very busy FB group with 41,800 members and counting.

Here is John’s story in his own words.

At about the age 8 my mother began to abuse alcohol and drugs. For several years, me and my two siblings lived in tents, homeless shelters, motels and even parks. My mother would panhandle during the day with her boy friends, and we ate at soup kitchens and churches for most of our meals. Food stamps didn’t last long because many were sold for cash, or my mom would have us children break them by buying .5 cent candy so she could accumulate the .95 cent change to buy cigarettes, beer, alcohol and drugs.

I have many memories of the generosity of strangers. One in particular sticks out for me. We were at a Denny’s around 10:00 pm trying to figure out where we were going to say for the night; just sorta killing time in the heated restaurant. My mom had enough change left after she filled her needs to get us a hot chocolate to share at the Denny’s. We did have a little something for dinner earlier that night, but it was something like stale church bread and peanut butter; needless to stay we were HUNGRY. I remember sitting there smelling the food and my stomach hurting with hunger.

A Stranger Steps Up
The waitress walks over and said a patron in the restaurant would like to buy dinner for our family – anything we wanted!  My mother was suspicious of the intentions of the person and started to ask questions.  After reassurance that there were no strings attached, she accepted.

It Takes a Village of Strangers
For more than 20 years, I looked back on that day and wondered why a stranger would buy other strangers dinner.  For so long,  I could never figure out  why someone would do that? Why not make them buy their own food? About 4 years ago I finally got it.  It was just a random act of kindness!   Someone loved me even though they never even met me. Someone cared if my drug addicted alcoholic mother ate enough, though she chose to spend her money on drugs. Someone loved us with out condition! This happened many times throughout my childhood and without those strangers I may have turned out to be a different man.

Life Goes On
My mother is still on the streets to this day. I  bounced around during my childhood, and I lived with family members.  I was a handful, and I ended up in a boys home for trouble youth,  and I ended up going to prison for a few years for stealing dirt bikes.

From Wrong Turns to Right Turns
I got out of prison and was tired of the life, and I started my own business. I now have 40 employees and I have hired many ex convicts over the years trying to provide them a second chance and opportunity to succeed , an opportunity people didn’t want to offer me. Some of my employees started  out homeless, and through my employment, found housing and got back on their feet.   I have a kid with extreme autism that works for me now. I’ve been out of prison and self-employed for 12 years now and own three successful businesses.

I’ve over came a lot of obstacles in my life and achieved a lot of success. I became the man I am today, not because of my parents, but because of the kindness of complete strangers. I was taught the meaning of giving and kindness by strangers. I think the moral of the story here is that your small gesture can make a bigger impact then you may ever see or know. I have helped hundreds of people over the past years, and I can’t help but hope somehow- someway, I might be returning that favor to that person who bought that little boy dinner.


The Birth of RAOK
My wife and I have vowed to feed others, to help those in need and to never forget were we have come from. I feel driven by the thought that it is my duty to pay back all those people who loved me without condition or reward, to pay it forward.

RAOK has now helped thousands of members of our community.  We did a back pack and shoe drive last year collecting 1300 sets of new shoes, new back packs and school supplies for 1300 low income children in need. This is just one of hundreds of examples of our projects and events we have held over the past two years.

Thanks for reading and let’s keep the chain going.

DONATED ITEMS and Volunteers are in great need in Riverside CA.
3296 Call Drive, Riverside, CA 92503
We need infant and toddle boy clothes and shoes

  • Blankets
    Mens’ clothing
    Non-perishable foods
    Slightly used clean, preferably folded clothes.
    Socks are always needed

ROAK is not a 501(c) so your donations are NOT a write off. ROAK consists of purely community members who are the middlemen to help those in need. All donated items go DIRECTLY to the people in need.
“Our pay is the smiles on the faces of those that receive!!”


One thought on “Lessons in Humanity – The John Gordon Story

  1. Thank you Jon for sharing your amazing story. I wish all the best of luck to you and your team that you continue to excel in this program you have created.


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