Sure, a pat on the back or a simple “thank you” is usually the standard for a job well done, but what if a single compassionate act could change your life along with someone else’s? Doing good for others is often a reward in and of itself, but sometimes our generosity comes back to us in ways we never imagined.

When an Idaho teenager remembered an act of kindness from his childhood, it turned his life upside down. See, the young man learned that not only had he changed another’s life with that small act, but his own was about to change in a big way, too…

Social media is an essential part of modern communication. But when 18-year-old Tyrel Wolfe received an unusual friend request on Facebook one afternoon, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

The request was from a young Filipino woman named Joana Marchan, and Tyrel was certain that they’d never met, let alone even been in the same country. Believing it to be just another scam, Tyrel declined the invitation.

Several years passed, and the strange friend request became a distant memory. He wasn’t much for Facebook anymore, but while casually checking his profile one day he noticed a new request in his inbox. The sender? Joana Marchan.

Tyrel’s interest was piqued, but his parents, wary of the type of people you find online, were understandably worried about this interest in their son. Still, Tyrel couldn’t resist getting to the bottom of this mystery. He opened the request and clicked “Confirm.”

Tyrel messaged the young woman, whose response only made things even more unclear: “you know about the Samaritan’s purse?” Tyrel was dumbfounded. What could this possibly mean? Was it some sort of code? Then, all at once, it hit him.

Samaritan’s Purse was a non-profit through which a seven-year-old Tyrel had donated a shoebox full of gifts as part of a charity program called Operation Christmas Child. But why, 11 years later, was this stranger from the Philippines contacting him about Christmas presents? And, most importantly, how did she know about his donation?

Then, Joana came clean: it was she that had received Tyrel’s shoebox all those years ago! Tyrel was blown away by the news, but even so, he was still skeptical of the young woman’s motivations. After all, how was he to know if “Joana” was really who she said she was? He needed proof.

Faithit

Tyrel questioned Joana about the contents of his gift, but she was unable to recall anything specific about the shoebox. He was ready to write her off, but at the last minute, Joana brought up one key item that proved she was telling the truth.

In the original shoebox, Tyrel had included a picture of himself at the time of the donation. Joana recalled the photo in perfect detail, describing his “cute cowboy” outfit and the “wooden background” of the image. Without a doubt, Joana was exactly who she said she was — and the story of she and Tyrel was only just beginning.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

Though most would go their separate ways after a one-off encounter like this, Tyrel and Joana stayed in touch and soon discovered they shared many of the same interests. Eventually, the pair was talking every day, and their Facebook chats soon blossomed into a fully-fledged friendship.

Over the next year and a half, Tyrel began saving up in the hope of visiting Joana after he graduated high school. As soon as he’d met his goal, he messaged Joana and immediately booked the next flight to the Philippines.

Business Traveler

Long plane rides are rough on everyone, but being that Tyrel had never left the country alone before, the 14-hour trip from Idaho to the Philippines was especially tough. But no matter how difficult the journey, it was all worth it for Tyrel when he arrived to find Joana and her family waiting at the airport to welcome him.

What was meant to be a short visit for Tyrel became a month-long stay as he and Joana discovered that their connection was deeper and more real than they could’ve ever imagined. It was clear that the Facebook friends were becoming something much more.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

Unfortunately, Tyrel had to say goodbye to Joana, but he knew in his heart that he couldn’t stay away for long. Putting in extra hours of part-time work between his college classes, Tyrel scrounged up enough money to make another trip back to the Philippines.

His second trip to see Joana was even better than the first, and it wasn’t long before the two had fallen in love. After learning a good amount of Tagalog – the native language of the Philippines – Tyrel approached Joana’s father to ask for one very important thing: his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Joana’s father agreed in a heartbeat, but her mother, fearing the couple was moving fast, was hesitant to give her blessing. Tyrel was heartbroken, but the young man was unwilling to leave the Philippines without the woman he loved by his side.

In a last-ditch effort, Tyrel convinced his father to fly in from Idaho to meet Joana and hopefully ease the tensions between him and her family. After several weeks of discussions, Tyrel and his father finally persuaded Joana’s mother to agree to the proposal.

In October of 2014, just five months after their engagement, the couple wed in a simple ceremony at Tyrel’s parents’ ranch. In lieu of wedding gifts, the newlyweds made an unusual request that brought their unconventional love story full circle.

Tyrel Wolfe / Facebook

Tyrel and Joana asked that each guest bring a shoebox of gifts to be donated to none other than Samaritan’s Purse! They also asked their guests to include a note about Tyrel and Joana’s story in each box to show how one small act of kindness can completely change someone’s life.

San Ynez Valley Star

After their wedding, Joana agreed to leave her home in the Philippines behind in favor of small-town life with Tyrel in Idaho. Their quiet country home was soon filled with the pitter patter of tiny feet, as not long after Joana gave birth to their first child, a baby boy named Harlann Jun Wolfe.

Marvin Quemado / Facebook

Even with lives made busy by work and parenting, Tyrel and Joana still make it a tradition to deliver shoe boxes every year. They were stunned to learn about another couple with a forgotten connection.

Several years before there was a fiance in the picture, Kay’s daughter, Heidi, was accepted into the University of Newcastle. While moving away from home would be a massive change, no one imagined what the future had in store for the family.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

In the fall of 2011, Heidi set out for her new home. The university didn’t mandate that students live in dorms, however, so Parker arrived on campus planning to share an apartment with some friends.

The living arrangement wasn’t what she imagined, though, and Heidi started looking for a new home. She searched the rental market and settled on a sunny studio apartment that was closer to campus.

Mynametrong/ Youtube

But one day, Heidi received a weird Facebook message. A strange man named Ed said he was a tenant in her old apartment; he desperately needed her help with a strange request.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

Ed wasn’t too handy and was struggling with the unit’s washing machine. He figured that the apartment’s previous occupant surely knew how to use it. Heidi tried to help via message, but it was no use.

Eventually, she decided that it would be easier to show Ed how to use the machine, so she walked over to her old building. Before long, the stranger’s clothes were fresh and clean.

McAleer and Rushe

As Heidi was getting ready to leave, Ed asked her to wait. There was one more question he needed Heidi to answer: Would she like to go on a date with him?

Heidi had thought Ed was attractive ever since he first messaged her, so she agreed. The pair would had their first date at a local cafe and immediately hit it off.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

They quickly became a couple and dated throughout university. But, before long, one specific date was looming: graduation. Was their relationship strong enough to survive the end of their time as classmates?

Newcastle University

The couple wanted to give life together a shot, so they both moved to London. Heidi and Ed rented separate apartments at first, however, temporarily putting their careers before their relationship.

The Telegraph

Their relationship not only survived the extra space, but flourished. Before long, the couple was living together again; at that point, the pair decided there was only one thing they still needed to do.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

They had to meet each other’s families! Both Ed and Heidi called their mothers and made plans. The four of them were going to have dinner at the couple’s favorite restaurant.

The Boston Globe

After a suspenseful few days, the big moment finally arrived. Both Ed and Heidi walked into the restaurant with their mothers; the fate of their relationship would come down to this evening.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

Thankfully, everyone hit it off! Before long both mothers were swapping stories and family memories like a pair of old friends. It turned out that they even shared one unique mutual interest.

Both families loved sailing and had taken several vacations to the same parts of the Mediterranean; Kay even shared an embarrassing story about Heidi meeting her first crush in Turkey. But the kids interrupted with some important news.

Pilgrim Sailing

Shortly before the dinner, Ed had proposed to Heidi! The couple would finally tie the knot. The two mothers were shocked but, after a few minutes, their emotions changed to unbridled joy. There was a wedding to plan.

Ed Savitt/ Facebook

After Kay returned home, she started straightening up the house. Between pre-wedding supplies and post-ceremony gifts, she wanted to have some extra room in the attic. There, she found something strange tucked in a corner.

It was a photo album caked in dust. Kay hadn’t flipped through it in years, but she figured that her daughter’s wedding was a good excuse to reminisce. She sat down and cracked open the cover.

The album contained pictures from the family trip to Turkey. One particular picture, however, caught her eye. It was of a young Heidi with a boy; the anecdote Kay shared at dinner was caught on film.

Skyla Eardley/ Instagram

He was Heidi’s first “boyfriend” and the pair had spent virtually the whole vacation holding hands. But then Kay’s mind started to race. Something about this boy seemed familiar, as if she had seen him recently.

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

After a few moments, everything clicked. His name was Ed, just like Heidi’s fiance. And at dinner, Ed’s mother mentioned that her family had also taken a trip to Turkey years earlier…

Kay quickly snapped a picture of the photo album and sent it to Ed’s mom, Fiona. Almost instantly, her phone started ringing. Unsurprisingly, her new friend needed to speak with her about their kids.

Instagram

Fiona confirmed what seemed impossible. That boy was her son. Heidi and Ed had first met — and began life as a couple — as a pair of six-year-olds. Now they were about to get married!

Heidi Savitt/ Instagram

Clearly, Heidi and Ed were destined to be together. Buoyed by that belief, the couple happily tied the knot in August 2017. But that wasn’t the end of their story.

Daily Mail

Inspired by the couple’s connection, both Heidi and Ed’s families have also become fast friends. At the end of the day, it had to be fate; the two groups were just meant to be united.

Daily Mail

Ed and Heidi lucked out. They knew not all blasts from the past were positive. In fact, they’d recently learned of another English couple that found their prior connection wasn’t so happy and sweet.

Paul and Lee both sat down at their respective laptops, logged into a dating site, and hoped to find their very own You’ve Got Mail-style, head-over-heels romance. Then with the ‘ding’ of notification, their lives were completely upended.

The Jeremy Kyle Show

The two Brits were stunned by the ease of their conversations. Each day, their connection grew stronger as they divulged more personal details. Soon, both were on the same page: they’d caught feelings.

Flickr

Still, they were hesitant. They’d heard their fair share of catfishing horror stories to know that an online Prince Charming could likely be a total fake. As the months ticked by, Paul and Lee let their barriers fall, confiding more of themselves than they’d ever had before.

Mic

Their lives continued, work, family, friends, all the while their best confidant was miles away. The seriousness of their feelings made it safer to be tethered to their phones, but after 2-and-a-half years, they could no longer avoid the inevitable.

Palms sweaty, rattled with nerves, the two of them made the leap to finally come face to face. Paul remembered, “It was emotional because we’d been talking for so long.” Still, both feared the meeting would tank the relationship.

But it was fireworks. They were one of those online success stories; they’d found love on the internet. Being with the person they’d stayed up late talking to, who they’d messaged every day for years, it was such a relief to know they could be together forever.

Flickr

Seamlessly, they slipped into a serious committed relationship. Lee and Paul had skipped all the awkwardness of the early stages of dating. Talks of marriage bubbled up early. The only word that felt adequate to describe each other? Soulmate.

Fodors

Within a week of meeting, Paul and Lee began introducing their friends to the online mystery men they’d prattled on about for years. Once their pals saw the grins on their faces, they gave a quick stamp of approval. It was obvious; Paul and Lee were in love.

Denver.org

Before they could swap rings, there was one more traditional hoop to jump through — meeting the parents. Honestly, they couldn’t wait. They were sure their families would be just as smitten with their beaus as they were.

Meet the Parents

Lee’s family was first. He’d prepped his mom, Ena, that this one was the real thing. When they walked in the door, it was hugs all around. Paul made a perfect impression and the whole family felt firm he was a worthy match for Lee.

Newsii

Ena watched her son interact with Paul; he was clearly infatuated. But as her eyes drifted to her son’s lover, she couldn’t help but think there was something about his kind, dark brown eyes that made her feel like she’d known him for ages.

The more she looked, Ena realized, his eyes reminded her of someone she’d committed to memory. “When I saw Paul for the first time I instantly thought he looked like my ex-husband, Ron.”

She wasn’t the only one. A few of the other family members piped up about the resemblance to Ena’s ex-husband. As their evening progressed, Lee’s family peppered Paul with questions trying to get to know him. Instead, his answer to one question instantly shifted the mood.

Business Insider

Paul didn’t just resemble Ena’s ex Ron. They bizarrely shared the same last name. Lee’s family pressed Paul about his relatives, but he couldn’t clarify much. In fact, he’d been adopted at 3 years old, so he had no clue about the origins of his last name.

Flickr

Listening to Paul made Ena start to feel sick. She was suffering from early onset Alzheimers, but as the pit in her stomach grew impossible to ignore at Paul’s adoption tale, hazy memories flooded back into her mind.

Maple Heights Living

To her stunned family, Ena recounted a grim story. During her marriage to Ron, times were tough. The couple was scraping by, struggling to keep food in the mouths and a roof over the heads of Ena’s 3 children. In the midst of their hardship, Ena found out she was pregnant.

Flickr

Ron and Ena discussed their options over and over. Months passed by, and soon, they were looking down in their arms at their baby boy. They tried to manage a 4 child household, but ultimately, they made the choice to give their son up for adoption at 18 months.

Flickr

Since Lee and Paul expected a quiet evening of getting acquainted, they were at a total loss about how to proceed after Ena’s truth bomb. Of course, if Paul was actually Ena’s son, that made the lovers half brothers. For answers, they turned to the tabloid program The Jeremy Kyle Show.

SKY News

Host Jeremy Kyle didn’t mince words. He asked Lee how he was feeling about the possibility that he’s in love and in a sexual relationship with a man who could be his brother. Lee answered, “It makes me sick,” he said. “It makes me basically horrible. I can’t describe it.”

Metro UK

They explained that if the results of the DNA test organized by the show proved them to be brothers, they would go their separate ways. Paul admitted, “I’m hoping it’s not true because I love you so much it’s unreal.”

Inform Overload / YouTube

The envelope arrived on stage and the lovers braced for the news. Jeremy Kyle opened the results that would determine the course of their usually complicated position. “The test results show,” he said, “that you two…” he paused for dramatic effect.

Reddit

“You’re half brothers,” he said. Immediately, Paul was overcome with emotion and fled the stage. A psychotherapist from the show comforted him, saying “It’s going to take time to process that and you’ll need to do it at your own speed.”

In the aftermath, Paul and Lee called it quits. Neither of them could continue a romantic relationship now that they knew they were half brothers. One bizarre silver lining was that in losing his lover, Paul gained a biological mother, father, and entirely new family.

Paradigm Malibu