When Chelsea Lassen decided to spend an afternoon with friends exploring ArtPrize in Grand Rapids Wednesday, she didn’t expect to leave in a panic.

“After leaving dinner hours later, I unzipped my pocket only to find no car keys,” said Lassen, a ‘05 graduate of Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

“There was no hope” of retracing her steps to find the keys, due to the vast amount of ground she covered at ArtPrize, Lassen said. So, she made her way back to her rental car at Ottawa and Louis streets to look for her keys.

But she had no luck.

After phone conversations with the rental company and roadside assistance, she realized she'd have to pay to tow the car and $225 for a replacement key.

“I was so mad,” she said. “I was to the point where there was a guy across the street that was singing and playing guitar, and I was cursing him silently in my head.”

But then her car did something weird — the headlights started flashing.

“I was so confused,” Lassen said. “I looked around, and the only other person there was this man slowly walking across the street.

Lassen said that a 40-some-year-old homeless man was smiling and waving while walking toward her.

The man told Lassen he found the keys on the ground next to the car hours ago, and he had been waiting in the area “in case the owner came back looking for the keys.”

Lassen was in shock.

“I ended up giving him a huge hug and all the cash in my wallet — which was about $80,” said Lassen, who normally doesn’t carry cash. “He could have stolen the car, or all of my luggage and belongings inside it, but he didn't. (He) just smiled and returned my keys without asking for anything.”

In the wave of adrenaline and astonishment at his kindness, Lassen forgot to ask his name, nor take a selfie with the man.

“He was very grateful," Lassen said. "He told me, ‘God bless you,’ and just walked away."

Lassen said that her faith in humanity "has been restored a little bit by the homeless man’s kindness.

“When you hear about all of the horrible things going on in the world, it’s nice to know that human decency still exists," she said. "It reminds you that the world can’t be that bad of a place.”

chelsea lassen
Chelsea Lassen gives her rental car a hug after a homeless man found and returned her car keys in Grand Rapids Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Lassen.