Listen to Each Other

AFSCME Local 901 member Phillip Gonzalez, tells a story about reconnecting one of the residents at a homeless shelter with his family.

We had a resident at the shelter. I overheard him talking to some other staff members and residents about his son being a Colonel in the Army and he was stuck in LA. No one really listened to him, I myself thought he was just making stories up, but I reminded myself that everyone should be given full attention and be listened to. So I asked him to tell me about his family and his situation. He said that he used to fly attack helicopters for the Army and was also a test pilot. His sons grew up military brats and followed in their father's footsteps and both were in the military. One of his son's was a Colonel in the Army based in the Seattle area. He said he was living in New Mexico and his son asked him to move up with him and his family in Seattle. He packed all his belongings in his car and started the drive up north. While driving through Los Angeles his car broke down on the freeway. He started walking to get help and the CHP pulled him over and arrested him for walking along the freeway. His car was impounded and he had no money to get it out. Everything he owned was in the car. When he was released he started wandering the streets and had a bad fall.

He was taken to a hospital and when he was discharged a counselor found him housing here at Downey Shelter. After telling me this story it triggered him to remember his son's phone number, he quickly wrote it down. I went to call it but it went straight to voicemail. Not knowing if this was a real number, I left a message with the Downey phone number to call back. Ten minutes later his son called. He was so relieved to know his dad was okay. They had been looking for him for the last month. I woke him up and told him his son was on the phone. At first he didn't believe me, but then he grabbed the phone and said, "son is that you?" Then he started tearing up. After talking with his son, he gave me one of the best thank you's that I have ever received. I almost started crying. His son called back for the park address for the Uber driver and he purchased an airline ticket to Seattle for his dad. 20 minutes later he was in a Uber on his way to reunite with his family.

This all happened because I chose to listen with no judgement. I still have the paper he wrote down his son's number on. Helping people is what we do!!