Our dining room table always reminds me of Robert. I was working one evening on my dining room table in the alley behind our shop. I had often seen this guy who rode around on a bicycle with a small trailer in tow that carried two beagle dogs. It appeared that he was probably homeless and this one day I was kind of irritated because he came up the alley and stopped. I just knew he was going to ask me for some money. He got off his bike and came over to where I was working and exclaimed…”Man, what a beautiful table…Are you making that!?” Now that my entire opinion of him changed in an instant, he had my total attention. “Why yes I proclaimed with bursting pride!”
We continued small talk for a while, learned each other’s names, and I petted his very friendly dogs. Off he rode down the alley and my thought was, what a nice guy! A few days later, Robert came by and asked if I would keep an eye on his dogs for just a bit while he went to put his name in at the employment place in order to try and get a job. This was shock number three. First of all, here is a homeless guy who thinks about and complements someone else’s efforts, Secondly he takes amazing care of his animals even while being homeless and thirdly, he wants to go try and get a job.
I did not mind watching the dogs at all, they were really cool dogs! However, the one started HOWLING the minute Robert left on his bicycle and did not stop until he returned! True love! Every time Robert came around, we talked more and more. I learned that he was a U.S. Marine Veteran who spent twenty years stationed at Camp Pendleton down south where my best friend Randy’s dad was stationed. I found out that he was a certified welder back East and had a driver’s license from some state on the East Coast. He had gone through a bad divorce and just kind of checked out of life. He told me he never drank alcohol and I never smelled it on him so alcoholism didn’t seem to be the problem.
Later, Robert again asked me to keep an eye on his dogs while he rode to the DMV and got his driver’s license transferred to California. To make a long story short….Robert ended up getting TWO jobs…one was a night watchman of some commercial property where he and his dogs could stay with some security and a restroom. He then got a job welding during the day that paid $10 per hour. Robert got his California driver’s license, he paid cash for an old beater car, showed me the certificate that proved he had put insurance on it, and eventually…Robert bought a small mobile home in Lake Isabella.
I don’t see Robert very often anymore but he will always remain one of my heroes in life. To come from where he found himself, and with all that was against him, to continue to strive and improve while always having a great attitude and a big smile have many days encouraged me! It all started with a genuine complement….”Man, that table you’re building is beautiful!”
I saw Robert the other day. He was not able to keep his little home in Lake Isabella due to the long commute to work in Bakersfield but he is still working and living on a friend’s property. He still has his vehicle and is still getting to work. Every time I see him, I tell him he is one of my hero’s!