By: Jamie Collins
(in collaboration with Juan D’Arce, Jr.)
“Sometimes, the stories we’re meant to tell have a way of finding us.”
Last night, I found myself fully engaged in the pre-Thanksgiving rush around ritual, also known as “preparation mode.” I made a mental list of items needed for Thanksgiving dinner and swung by the local grocery store on my way home. Once inside the rather crowded confines of aisle 12, I loaded a basket with all of the fixings for a green bean casserole, stuffing, and double layer pumpkin pie. After waiting in a (ridiculously) long line to check out (and yes, becoming a twinge annoyed), I drove home to unpack the newly acquired groceries and prepare our evening meal.
Imagine my agitation when I realized I forgot a key ingredient for those coveted pumpkin pies – the whipped cream. (I know, I couldn’t believe it either…)
Later that evening, I found myself seated on the tan leather sectional couch in my living room, iPad on my lap, watching television alongside my husband, Chris. I remember feeling frustrated with myself, as a writer/blogger person, and for a brief moment, giving myself a slight mental thrashing for not managing to put together a post to pay homage to the Thanksgiving holiday. Bored with the episode of 48 Hours we were watching, heavily entrenched in the midst of multi-tasking (as are so many of us in this digital age), I began to surf Facebook. And when I did – that’s when a personal story shared by a Facebook friend of mine hit me, the long-haired lady sitting on the couch in her fleece PJs, much like a semi-tractor trailer loaded to the brim with Butterball turkeys headed en route to tables all across the nation.
I came across a post by Juan D’Arce, Jr., which shared a few photos of a man (and his family) that Juan met in passing yesterday. The man’s name was Curtis Ingram. Here is the post I saw:
They were separated tonight and taken to shelters. The kids are with Rosie. Curtis is alone. They have clothing as you can see on this photo and cannot carry more items. They need shelter/home, food and money to climb out of their situation. We have some potential jobs for Curtis. Many of you have offered to help. Anyone wishing to help this family of 6 with 4 kids (Girls 4 and 6 years old – Boys 7 and 9 years old) please consider credit card type gift cards and cash at this point. Jon Schmidt and I are doing our best to keep pushing for government help. If any of you would like to send donations, please call me or send it in a sealed envelope to me at our Downtown Miami Office: ESQUIRE DEPOSITION SOLUTIONS, 14TH FLOOR, 44 WEST FLAGLER STREET, MIAMI, FL 33130.
Here we are a day or two before the impending Thanksgiving holiday. I was in search of a tub of whipped cream…and what this family was in search of was simply a meal to feed their 4 hungry children and a place to rest – a shelter to lay their weary heads for the night.
Let. That. Sink. In.
I know I did. I was in my comfy home, in the midst of electronic overload, annoyed with boring television, piling in loads of laundry, mentally picking out attire, and pouting about not having written a post for the holiday. The truth is there are people around each and every day of our lives in need of something, some people’s needs far more basic than others.
That Facebook post inspired me to reach out to Juan for the first time via a private message. I wanted to learn more about this family’s story and how he came to know them. Here is what he said:
I met Curtis and Rosie Ingram in Downtown Miami outside of the 7 Eleven store while I looked for a client who had just posted that they were next door at a restaurant called “Lime.” I took notice of them because they have two little girls ages 4 and 6 and two little boys ages 7 and 9. They had just crossed the street and were pushing multiple pieces of big luggage. Curtis went into the store and came out with ice in a bag. He then went back for more and put it in a small cooler. I kept watching him go in and out and walked in to see what he was buying. Curtis was polite and said to the clerk they were having a rough time and thanked him for the ice.
I walked out. The older son asked me if I wanted to buy chips for a dollar. I took this opportunity to ask Rosie about their story. I asked if they were tourists looking for their hotel. She told me that they had come from Detroit this past Friday, ran out of money and now where homeless; that coming to Miami was not what they had expected.
Then Curtis came back out and I asked, “Why Miami?” He said that Detroit was not doing well and he needed to provide for his family and figured from what he’d heard that Miami would be a better opportunity for them. That: “in Miami at least you can be homeless and not freeze to death.”
He spoke about the Greyhound ride there and the difficulties getting around Miami. He also told me they’d spent their last $40 the night before on a hotel room because he could not have his kids sleeping on the street. He said that after waiting for the homeless assistance to call back and not getting a call, they walked over to the Miami Police Department at around 7:30 p.m. to ask for assistance. The police department personnel pitched in $10 and found them a place to sleep.
What came next? A random act of kindness.
My next question was, “Have the kids eaten breakfast and lunch?” The answer was, “barely.” I asked if the homeless program had interviewed them and if they had the documents showing they are the parents of the four kids. They said “yes.” They were concerned because they were told they would be called by 2:30 p.m. the day before and at 7:30 p.m., they walked to the police station to seek help. I told them I would buy the family lunch at Lime and called my friend Jon Schmidt from Marvin’s Corner. (I met Jon when I was a Judicial Assistant in the Felony Drug Court Division and he has a lot of contacts to get people help and a bed within the different programs.)
At this time, I made my original Facebook post asking for leads to help the family, as I saw it was getting late in the afternoon. Then I ordered food for the family with Curtis. I ordered the biggest individual plates they had. I also ordered bottles of water for the family. When Curtis heard the price for each, he told the cashier to only order half because it was a lot of money. He also asked for water in a cup. I told him he should not worry about the cost and placed the order.
Then I went back to my office at Esquire Solutions and made some calls to friend to seek help. Eventually, we packed up their stuff and started walking to the Government Building. We spoke to nice people at the homeless trust program and basically stopped them from going home as it was already 4:30 p.m. The ladies got on the phone and started locating shelter. I reminded them that children were a priority and we needed them placed.
At this time I posted a few photos of the kids looking at our beautiful skyline for the first time. (Pictured above). A true sign of home as the sun shined though the window of the 27th floor looking west. I asked Curtis if he wanted to work. He said, “Definitely.” He told me he was a bar back and banquet server, but was willing to do anything to get himself help. We exchanged numbers and I gave him my card and told them to keep me posted.
(Juan on the left, Curtis on the right)
Today I received a call from Curtis at 8:00 a.m. He wanted to know about the potential jobs and what he should wear. I also received many messages and calls from my friends to provide help. We are hoping to provide housing, food and shelter for this family.
What made Juan take notice of this family?
The reason I stopped and spoke to this family was because I noticed something peculiar. Noting I have a small daughter, I felt the need to help and asked my network to support my efforts. Having legal experience with the local system, I know how difficult it is to navigate the waters. Thus, I took the initiative to push for them to receive help. It is Thanksgiving and it is the least I could do. Many of us face tough times and if this happened to any of us I would hope someone would care and do the same.
The pictures of this family and their story truly struck me. And it reminded me of a lot of things:
- Right now there are people in need of a kind word
- Others looking for a nudge of encouragement or inspiration.
- A neighbor down the street in need of a little comfort due to the recent passing of a spouse.
- People who will be spending their first holiday alone in an empty house.
- Individuals in need of decent paying jobs (any ol’ job will do) just to get by.
- Single moms and dads trying to make ends meet.
- People clinging to hope, prayers or a miracle for the return to health for a loved one or themselves.
There are some of us searching for big bargains, better jobs, nicer cars, Thanksgiving fixings, new clothes or gifts to put beneath the tree for our families this holiday season.
And somewhere in Miami, Florida sits this family – the Ingram family (this beautiful, well-kept family, currently separated in various shelters for the night) simply in need of a meal (they aren’t picky), and in need of a home (anywhere will do).
So today and tomorrow and throughout the upcoming holiday season, take a moment to:
Life is full of choices. Today, we each have a choice to make about a lot of things: What time we’ll wake up. The time we’ll plan to arrive to work. What we’ll eat for breakfast. The projects we’ll tackle once we get there. And lastly, when we’ll arrive for or depart from Thanksgiving dinner, what we’ll eat (or bring), or watch, be grateful for, and with whom.
And there sits a family in Miami, Florida in need of a little generosity in a time of need. So today, I’m making one more important choice, in addition to the “tall black iced tea with no syrup,” my 9:00 a.m. office arrival time, and the decision to draft a demand on behalf of a client while seated in the confines of my comfy office at a small firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. Today, I’m also making the choice to do what feels right, like it was meant to be done (for this family), on this day and at this time of year…and sending a little hope and support to a family in need in Miami. While I’m at it, I’m going to write a blog post. And I’m going to share it with the world.
So later today, when you find yourself seated behind that large wooden helm (otherwise known as your desk), in your living room on that comfy couch, in a warm vehicle on the way to grandma’s house, seated at a mini-feast bowing your head in prayer, or taking an internal moment to be grateful (truly grateful) for all that you are and all that you have: remember the family from Miami, Florida…and so many others just like them.
And more importantly – let that sink in.
If you enjoyed today’s post, share it. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, safe travels, and a season filled with love, happiness, and gratitude.
A special thank you to Juan for sharing with special story and collaborating on this post with me. May it serve as a message to us all…