'Selfie Guy' still healing hearts, collecting smiles

- The last time that Billy Poole spoke with FOX 26 News, he was perched in front of 160 or so devoted friends, among them, adults inspired by his lesson and plenty of children in the process of learning it. Like most great stories, this journey is about love and begins from a place that is as low as a person can go.

"I was 35," recalls Poole. "They said, 'He's having a stroke!'" Poole's body would never be the same.

Strength, prosperity and happiness replaced by disability, weakness and despair. It was a crippling descent that proved to be life-threatening.

"I felt like I was nothing after I had the stroke, like I was no use to anybody," says Poole. The choice? Check out far before his time or find reason for living.

Isolated and broken, Poole turned to an unlikely source of salvation -- an untapped reservoir of friends on Facebook.

Over the last year, 42-year-old Poole has stepped firmly back from the brink by tracking folks down for "face time in the flesh," preserving the moment of reconnection and then posting for all to see. He calls it #ProjectSelfieDefeatDepression and it has healed what drugs and doctors could not.

And in the months since FOX 26 helped introduce Poole to the world, he has not strayed from the prescription.
The big fella, now widely known as "the Selfie Guy," just clicked past 1,500 and made a passel of new friends along the way.

"Stay positive, that's it, stay positive keep pushing forward," says Shay Donatto, a new friend inspired by Poole's example. "We all have negativity around us all the time. Push through it. There's always something better on the other end." 

"People say I make them smile and making them feel good, makes me feel good," adds Poole. "For me it's that simple."

Poole insists that he's a different man than when he started this journey -- change wrought through the simple acceptance of human frailty.

"Everybody deserves forgiveness," says Poole. "No matter what you did in your past, everybody deserves to be forgiven. I have no hate in my heart anymore."

These days those selfies get Billy's foot in the door to share his story and offer a ready ear in return. It's an opportunity to ease suffering and in so doing, stave off the return of his own.

"Anybody who is going through that, I feel for them," says Poole. "They need to reach out to somebody. Reach out to me. Reach out to whoever is around, because, trust me, you have somebody who cares for you."

At least one.

You can find him in Mont Belvieu or Baytown or just "friend" him online. A man with a selfie cam and a mission.

"I'm happy," says Poole. "That's my wealth. Being happy makes me smile."

And that's more than enough, when you thought they were gone for good.

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