For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of working with Michael on a number of projects that shine a light on homelessness and financial instability in Orange County. Together we have created videos, written blog posts and he has shared his story at large and small events with corporate and community partners.
When Michael speaks, he helps people understand that homelessness describes a temporary situation caused by poverty, lack of affordable housing, job loss and traumatic experiences like domestic violence. It does not define a person.
For a time, Michael was living in a car and motels while trying to stay connected to his young sons. Then after months of applications and interviews, he got a job as a public transportation driver. He was elated to have a job that paid the bills and enabled him to move into an apartment with his sons, thanks to a sliding fee structure. When Michael’s custody situation changed during his divorce, he was unable to maintain a regular schedule with his sons while keeping the demanding hours of his job.
He chose his son’s well-being and took a brave step by leaving his job and moving into a cheaper apartment while he looked for a new job. While spending time with his sons at a local Boys & Girls afterschool program, he was impressed by the wealth of activities and he noticed that the boys were improving academically and socially. The Club’s credo of ‘every afternoon is a chance to change America’s future’ inspired him so much that when Michael saw an opportunity, he grabbed it.
Today as part of his duties, he transports a group of Boys & Girls Club members from school to the Club five days a week. He also distributes healthy snacks like sandwiches, milk and fruit. Throughout his shift, he continually monitors and interacts with students as they play games, do homework or take art, music or computer classes. However, it doesn’t end there. Soon, Michael will do his part to enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness and belonging through a public speaking program.
While Michael’s story is not unusual, his resilience is exceptional. He does not look for pity nor does he assign blame. Michael’s secret of managing change? He focuses all his energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Just when he thought he was losing everything, Michael gained his voice. It was a voice so strong and clear that he knew he had to share it.
Today I send my heartfelt thanks to Michael for the gift of his voice and his grit, as well as congratulations. Michael is engaged to be married and he and his sons are doing great.
To see Michael in action, take a look at two videos with Michael.
Submitted by Katherine Ransom.