It's impossible to look at someone and know exactly what's going on in their lives. Everyone's heard the old saying: "Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes." This is especially true when you encounter someone who is experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, there's still a huge stigma, even in this day and age, about people who don't have anywhere to live. People often assume that the homeless person is entirely at fault for their own situation; they must be lazy bums, criminals, or drug addicts.
The thing is, that's simply not true. If the recent foreclosure crisis is anything to go by, we should be all too aware of how frighteningly easy it is to lose everything ... and that's assuming you were in a position to be approved for a mortgage and own your own home in the first place. And what about the frequent suggestion that homeless people should "just get a job?" With declining wages and rising inflation, many people living in homelessness and poverty are "the working poor." Despite working 40 hours (or more) a week, many people can not find affordable housing.
Greg Smith comes across people living on the streets each day. Smith is a business owner; he founded Hybrid Athletes, a company that helps individuals become fitter and healthier through personal training. He spends a lot of time in downtown Orlando, walking from meeting to meeting. That's where he met someone very special.
"Meet Amy Joe. For the last few weeks, each Tuesday, Amy Joe and I meet at the corner of Pine Street and South Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. I work downtown and am always moving around the city. Each day, for about a week, I saw Amy Joe at this corner, and she never asked for money. She simply said, 'Good morning, Sir. Have a great day. God bless!' and smiled. I wear a suit to work every day so I get asked for money quite often downtown ... but never once from Amy Joe. Now, every Tuesday, Amy Joe and I have lunch together. For 30 minutes to an hour, I get to hear how positive she is, even though she really has nothing."
"Last week, Amy Joe kind of dropped a bomb on me: she cannot read. Amy Joe does not smoke, drink, have a drug addiction, or anything of that nature. She simply just never had anyone teach her how to read. She told me how hard it was for her to find work, not being able to read. She began to tell me any money that she can collect, she uses to check out library books that help with literacy instead of buying FOOD. This crushed me! She would rather learn to read, so she might be able to find a job, than eat! I have been blessed with two amazing parents and a family that has always had the resources to provide me with anything I wanted; Amy Joe has not.
So, now, not only do Amy Joe and I sit and have lunch, but I'm teaching her to read. I rent one library book a week, and we read it together on Tuesday. She practices on her own throughout the rest of the week.
This post is in no way supposed to make anyone feel sorry for Amy Joe or to brag about myself for doing something for someone less fortunate. I wanted to share this because maybe this will lead to someone helping another person. There are a lot of people out there like Amy Joe, although not all are hungry, homeless, or hurt. Some could be your family or friends. Helping someone could be as easy as saying 'hello!' and smiling. I have been fortunate enough financially that I can help Amy Joe, so that's what I'm going to do. If this is something that hit home with you, like and share it. If not, that's okay, too ... but you never know what you can do for someone until you try. Who is your Amy Joe?"
(Note: While it is generally free to check out books from the public library, this is often not the case for people without a permanent address, like Amy Joe. Generally, in order to obtain a library card, you must provide proof of residence. Sometimes, it is possible, instead, to pay a fee or deposit to check out books. For homeless people with limited funds, this can be almost as great an obstacle as providing proof of residence.)
It hasn't even been a week since Greg shared Amy Joe's story with the world, and the response has already been huge! He took to Facebook again, this time posting a video to let everyone know what's going on with Amy Joe. For anyone that feels called to help her, Greg has set up a fundraising account, The Amy Joe Foundation, on GoFundMe. As Greg points out, "Whether it be $1, $5, or a share/like on the video ... it will help bring more amazing awareness to help one person at a time."
Be sure to SHARE this heartwarming friendship with your family and friends.