The broken people you see in a place like prison often spark memories from before prison, the lessons you’ve learned, and the experiences you’ve had. I’m constantly reminded of my dad and the things he taught me.
It was through my dad that I was introduced to the first homeless person I ever knew. Over the years I’ve known a total of three homeless people – four if you count me, which at the moment, I do.
I always thought my dad’s friend, Joe, was an old guy who worked at his office, an employee. Turns out that Joe was a homeless veteran who lived downtown and would drop by my dad’s office for coffee and donuts. Joe was in his 60’s. My dad was 45, and I was about 15 or 16 at the time.
When I saw him, Joe would ask how I was doing in school, and one time my dad brought him home for dinner, unannounced. My dad didn’t just bring him for a home cooked meal though, I think he also brought him to see the look on my step mom’s face.
The third homeless person I met was standing in front of a Super Walmart on a cold autumn day in East Texas. Margaret was by herself with a duffle bag full of clothes and a sign that read, ‘Will work for food’.
I put my groceries in my Subaru Brat and asked her about her situation. She was a school teacher, laid off due to budget cuts, single, 55-years old, and had just been evicted from her apartment. I told her to hop in my car, and I offered her a job as a nanny/housekeeper. At the age of 32, I was completing the circle my dad taught me to draw twenty years earlier.
My wife and I were expecting our daughter, Cara, and had an extra bedroom. I offered Margaret free room and board plus six dollars an hour to watch over our seven-year-old son and take the load off my very pregnant wife.
She not only did those things, she was also a speech therapist, and she worked with my son who was having trouble pronouncing his words due to an inner ear infection when he was younger. Margaret stayed with us for about six months, until she got a job as a teacher in another school district. I didn’t want her to go, but we all have our paths.
But, it’s the second homeless person I knew that I want to talk about, Dawn. I was 23 years young, attending college, and braver than I am now. I was also my father’s son, so risk became almost second nature, especially when someone was being bullied or manipulated. I have never liked bullies.
I was shooting pool in a dive bar in Arlington, Texas. I was taught by the greatest pool hustler I’ve ever seen, my grandfather. From the time I was able to see over the top of a billiards table, until I moved to Texas in 1979, Grandpa Reed taught me every single trick in the book, and some that weren’t even mentioned in the book (and never will be). So, being twenty-three, I used to set up shop in an old bar or pool hall and make the rent.
One night, I noticed a girl, about nineteen or so, run through the bar and into the women’s restroom. The key to hustling pool is a clear head, so I was drinking Diet Coke and water. My opponents were drinking whiskey and beer. I was up $50 when the girl ran through the bar. She looked like she’d fought and lost a one round bout with the Terminator. As the scene played out, a big white guy in a black trench coat walked into the bar and scanned the crowd.
Ah, the aforementioned Terminator.
I walked over to the bar to order another Diet Coke, and he asked me if I’d seen a short white blonde come into the bar.
Ah, the damsel in distress.
I told him I saw someone fitting that description down at the other bar across the way. He laid a $5 bill on the counter and said, “Thanks, pal.” After he left the bar, I went to the restroom, opened the door and yelled in, “If you want to escape, I can get you safely away.”
The girl looked at me like she’d just won the lottery and came out of the restroom. I grabbed her hand and led her to my car. Once inside, I saw The Terminator coming out of the bar I led him to, and I started my car before creeping out of the lot, unnoticed.
I found out the girl was nineteen, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and on her way to Houston when she was detained by said Terminator at the bus station. He’d been abusing her for about a week and was planning on pimping her out.
I took her to my apartment and cleaned her up. She had no clothes, no anything, just a lot of bruises and apprehension. My roommate, Eddie, came home and knew I was in rehab mode, so he just went to bed.
The next day I took the $50 and some more cash I had laying around and bought her some clothes and make up. After a few days had passed, I took her to my store manager, Mr. Wright, and got her a job in the floral department. She was a natural. Two months later, she had her own place. Six months later she was the department head. We never saw the Terminator again.
I’ve always wondered why or what makes a bully. After I told my dad what I’d done, he told me all that a bully requires to exist is a willing victim.
I don’t know about the willing part. I’ll always be on the victim’s side of things.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ‘Shipwrecked, Abandoned, Misunderstood’, but he still has the things his father instilled in him – humility, respect and love. In spite of 25 years behind bars, he continues to wake up every day holding on to his humanity and on a mission to change the world for the better.
John Green #671771
C.T. Terrell Unit A346
Rosharon, TX 77583