It is hard to believe that there are seven billion people in this world yet somehow, we are all connected in some way. I can’t fully explain this connection, but obstacles are placed before us in which some people overcome, share their stories, then someone, somewhere, somehow is able to personally relate because they too experienced a very similar situation. There are some things in life that many of us will never endure and it’s easy to judge a person when their social norm is different from ours. It is during these times that we should get to know them.
Monday, September 25, 2017, I had the opportunity to have a sit-down interview with one of the residents at the Randy Sams’ Outreach Shelter in downtown Texarkana, TX. Tommy Aubrey, 40, is one of those residents. Growing up Mr. Tommy was the oldest of three and suffered from dyslexia along with a speech impediment. As a child, he imagined that one-day he would grow up to go into the Marines he was fascinated with law enforcement, and forensics was something that interest him most, but challenges were forced upon him and life takes him on a detour. He settled back in Texarkana, AR after moving away from Oklahoma, he quickly explains that the reason it’s been hard the last two years is because he had a hard time asking for help when he needed it most. “If I can’t get it on my own, it was meant for me not to have it,” Aubrey says.
He went on to describe what the first night was like for him being homeless, he says “It was hard, because I have a lot of pride issues and I believe in myself so much that sometimes you try to hide things until you get it together, I didn’t want anyone to know I was homeless.” Mentally he felt hopeless, but quickly understood what it felt like to sit and sleep on the sidewalks. Aubrey says, “It made me understand, and gave me an idea of what those people were going through. It’s kind of hard to understand a homeless person unless you are put in that situation.” Despite everything he went through he has no regrets, he went on to describe them as “growing pains” he says that “this experience allowed me to understand where I can survive at and let me know where I am weak. The weak part is I can’t do everything on my own.” He was quick to make light of the situation by telling me how he would’ve never known what it was like to camp out had he not been homeless sleeping in the woods.
I couldn’t help but to wonder, ‘how is Mr. Tommy able to remain so positive and hopeful that everything will one day work out?’ He responded, “I believe in the self.” Both his grandmother and mother taught him to not feel sorry for himself, to stand tall in the midst of any storm and he has done just that! Mr. Tommy emphasized on being a risk taker, trusting the decisions you make for yourself, and not being afraid to go with the unknown. I learned that not everything is going to be easy in life but as he said, “I believe everyone has to go through something in order to know where they are going.” Now being 40 years old he has experienced enough of life to know that the things he cared about when he was younger just don’t matter anymore. He has truly inspired me in a way that will always leave this lasting impact on my life. That day, he taught me that everything truly does happen for a reason even if we don’t understand the reasoning at that moment. I’ve always wondered and questions the obstacles of my life, why was I of all people handed certain stumbling blocks while others seem to have it a lot easier than myself?
Mr. Tommy taught me that as “bad” as your life may seem, there’s someone dealing with a struggle that you may not ever endure in a lifetime. I learned that we all go through tough situations but you must learn that struggles are necessary in order to get to where you are going. Society should be less judgmental of people who have less than them and that life don’t have favorites, that at any given moment the life you have now can be taken away and you could be in the position that you said you would never be in. So, the next time you see a homeless person let me tell you now, they are humans and they have feelings.