When I went on UNITE, a few weekends ago, we were given a special opportunity to meet with two of the residents from FOH, and they shared their inspirational stories with us. Even though Jeff and Lee have gone through some hard times, especially overcoming drug habits, they were still able to check themselves in for help. FOH is a wonderful program and it allows the men to live on their own and helps them to start their life over. Even though Jeff and Lee did not live a glamorous life, their stories inspired me.
They gave the UNITE participants, simple, yet brutally honest advice. Lee shared his stories about living in the fast lane, but now all he wants to do is be a role model for his son. People are allowed to make mistakes, and flaws are what makes us human. Jeff and Lee have taken responsibility of their actions, and now they are taking the necessary effort to turn over a new leaf. They are not hopeless cases, but instead they are actually filled with love and hope for everyone around them. Earlier that night before they shared their personal stories, we played a game of Pictionary with a bunch of the FOH men. Jeff and Lee were probably the most enthusiastic players of the night, and especially after hearing them speak I appreciated who they are as fellow human beings. Their life journeys are incredible, and they give me hope that the city of Baltimore has a lot of heart and potential. Just like Jeff and Lee never give up, even in the times of darkest shame, the city of Baltimore will also continue to rise up.
In the short story “B. Traven is Alive and Well Cuernavaca”, by Rudolfo Anaya, the narrator takes a trip to Mexico and encounters amazing characters. Just like when I traveled to Baltimore, and I found Jeff and Lee, The narrator is a writer and he also discovers many things. The character that stood out to me the most was Justino. Throughout the story, there are so many details about his incredible personality. He has a lot of love to share and is very adventurous. Justino is even able to convince the narrator to go on a journey with him. Justino is happy, full of song and wonder, and even though UNITE, happened a while ago, after I read the story I immediately remembered the men from FOH. The image of them playing Pictionary, and the fact that they were willing to start over for their families and friends, reminded me right away of Justino. Even the old man at the end of the story, describes Justino as “the source of life.” Although Jeff and Lee have made mistakes, right now they are sources of life for Baltimore. Lee is also a source of life for his son.
Phillis Levin’s “End of April”, also had a striking resemblance to the men we met at FOH. Although the end of the poem tends to deal with death, the beginning of the poem really reminded me of Jeff and Lee. “I found a robin’s egg,/ broken, but not shattered.” Jeff and Lee did find themselves into a dangerous world, and their spirit was broken, but at the same time is not shattered. Jeff and Lee are able to continue to tell their stories. They are trying so hard to get better, get a new job and start up a new life. Unfortunately in the poem the egg’s contents is gone, but nonetheless, the spirit lives on in the speaker. Even if Jeff and Lee did use drugs at one point and did damage a part of their life, they are not completely gone.
Finally the Baltimore Sun Article Serving up Hope, directly relates to Jeff and Lee. Just like the Sampsons are using their business and cooking skills to help former drug addicts, the FOH group works in the same way. The FOH gives men transitional housing and helps them get a job. The men are given a second chance and are not looked down upon. They are not babysat, and they actually live by themselves. This is exactly how the Sampson couple, gives people a second chance to work at their deli, without discrimination.