Monday, January 04, 2010

My Friend Amos

I met Amos some time after we moved into this house. I was on a junking expedition in a neighborhood close by and saw a driveway full of stuff. I wanted a table in the pile, so I stopped to ask if it was all being sold, junked, or what. Amos answered the door, but he was only renting a room in the house so he had no idea. He was bleary-eyed and his speech was slurred and I had obviously woken him up. We chatted a bit, he admired my big old Suburban (I miss that monstrosity) and we parted ways. That pile of stuff stayed in the driveway for weeks, and I stopped one other time, only to meet Amos again and be told that the owner was a hoarder with a house and backyard full of stuff, but would accept $100 for the table. No thanks, I said.

Weeks later, Amos came to my door, very pleased that he had recognized my car and found my house. This would normally be a scary thing, but I could sense a good heart in Amos so my only fear was in doubting my judgment. I decided to not be afraid. We talked more and it became obvious to me how financially destitute Amos was. He is a handyman, jack-of-all-trades. I told him I wanted to learn to work with wood and he offered to teach me, and I began offering to drive him to local jobs to save him hours of walking or inefficient bus routes. Over the months of our friendship I discovered he was originally from Mississippi, had adult children there (Amos is easily old enough to be my father), but I suspect a restless heart and probably some depression/alcohol issues led him west in search of something, although I don't think he's drinking at all now. He would never say exactly why he came west. He calls himself a cowboy; his nickname is California Wild West, or C.W. for short. I asked him if life is so hard for you here, why not go back to family? He'd just say that he had to be out west. He moved to Anaheim when the people he was living with moved there, but was unhappy because the people really didn't want him with them anymore. He still had customers in my area so he still stopped in every couple of weeks.

Last fall I hired him to do some work for my mother. I'd pick him up in Anaheim and drive him to Chino. One morning we drove past a park and he said "That's where I used to live when I was homeless." The man he lived with had hired him and some other homeless fellows for crude labor and when Amos suggested a better design for storing his ladders the man hired him to do that and said Amos could live with him. Another morning, he told me he was trying to save money to buy a plane ticket back to Mississippi. His son, Amos Jr., was getting his Masters and Amos wanted to see the graduation. I said I'd try to find him more work, intending to hire him to do some work for me. I also offered to buy his ticket and he could pay me for it gradually, because I knew I could get a better price by searching online.

So I bought the ticket, knowing full well there was a remote possibility I'd be scammed. But I bought it anyway because without trust where are we as human beings? Amos got sick and lost quite a few work days and didn't have a dime to his name, but I gave him the ticket anyway and he went to Mississippi for two weeks. He went to his aunt's funeral, he went to the graduation, he spent Christmas with his grandchildren. He called me from Mississippi to have his grandchildren talk to me and his son, too. Everybody called me "ma'am," even after I assured them that wasn't necessary. He came to see me yesterday morning, all alight and happier than I'd ever seen him. He gave me a copy of the graduation program as "proof" (which I never asked for) and told me he wants to move back to Mississippi as soon as he's able. He told me to make a list of jobs he can do to pay me back before he leaves. I can't... I can't find words for what I felt. He was amazed at how much love he'd felt being back home. He also met a lady. He's all fired up. I want him to go back to his family. Now I just have to keep him excited and not let despair set in. I have to get Amos back to Mississippi!

10 comments:

Jessica said...

Wow. Just...wow.

Rachel said...

Boy, this was NOT the day for me to read this. I openly wept at work. You have such a kind and wonderful heart. What a blessing that you saw Amos for what he really is.

And now I'm officially on board the Let's Get Amos Back to Mississippi Train. How can I help? Can I make a donation to the fund? Can I link this story on my blog? Can we road trip him out there? Let me know how I can help. And thanks for the inspiration.

colleeeen said...

I'm sorry I made you cry! Hmm, I hadn't thought about soliciting help. You can link the story, if you so desire, although I'm not so hot to have a bunch of strangers think I'm a saint - but if something comes of it then I guess it's worth enduring people complimenting me or ::shudder:: thinking highly of me. ugh. Now I'm regretting I even wrote this! I am really a mess, LOL!

Stephanie said...

I just love you to pieces Colleen. You are a treasure. I'm so glad I know you!

Please let us know how we can donate to the fund and how we can help him get back to Mississippi. I'm on board the train, too!

courtney said...

well miss colleen you wount get compliments from you you are a terriable person I spit on the ground you walk on!
are you serious! you are the most kind hearted, selfless, caring wonderful person i know. You are always offering to help. I have only met amos a few times but out of those few I knew he was a kind man. you are luck to have met him and to build a relationship like that with hem that is one that will last forever and i am pretty sure that he will be forever greatful. in closing to this comment SUCK IT UP SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO HEAR A FEW GOOD WORDS ABOUT YOURSELF.

samandholly said...

Colleen,
When I reread the story, the only thought I had was that it was just what your Dad would have done. Good job!

colleeeen said...

Oh Sam, you've broken my heart. Thank you. You could never have said a kinder thing to me, ever.

liannallama said...

oh, your story touches my heart. I hope everything works out for Amos. Especially in your later years it is good to be near family.

Julia Harps said...

awesomest story I ever heard. That is one happy feeling you must have to be making such a difference in someones life. I will seriously donate $20 to his getting back to mississippi fund.

Kimberly said...

I admire that about you. I would be too chicken to befriend someone so outwardly different than my perception of me, and you just looked past all that and took him in. I know you don't want anyone to sing your praises- because that's not the point, but really it does underscore a huge reason why everyone feels so comfortable around you. I hope the best for Amos- and that he keeps in touch with you.