I’ll call him Sam, but he was more than just a Sam. He was special is what he was. On his outside, he was a fella with gray hair, a drywall man, a widower.
On the inside, he was a giant.
Long ago, his wife died from cancer. He thought his life was over. He gave up day-to-day living and stayed in his bathrobe for months. He ate cartons of ice cream, he quit doing laundry, stopped shaving.
He retired from work. He moved out of his old house and bought a new home. It wasn’t a nice place, but it was in a decent neighborhood. And the house had a detached garage apartment.
That’s where it all happened.
The first person to live in the apartment was a young man he’d met at a diner. The kid was a waiter. He was covered in tattoos and piercings. They started talking.
As it happened, the kid was late on child support, behind on taxes, and homeless. It broke Sam’s heart.
So he let the kid live in the apartment, rent free. After only a year, the kid had saved up enough money to make child support, and get onto his feet.
The second person to live in Sam’s garage apartment was a young woman with three girls. Her husband was injured in a work accident—it crushed his ribs and spine.
Sam let the woman live in the apartment while she visited her husband’s rehab every day. Sam even babysat her girls. When her husband got released, the family lived in that one-bedroom place for two years.
The third person to live in the apartment was an elderly man who was legally blind. He’d lost eighty percent of his vision and couldn’t live on his own.
Sam opened his door.
On the day the man moved in, Sam gave him a walkie talkie. “Use this to call me,” Sam said. “Any time of the day or night.”
The radio got used a lot. Right up until the day the old tenant finally passed.
And I’m only getting warmed up.
A nineteen-year-old boy once lived in that garage apartment. The kid had been released from a detention center. He had no family, no friends.
Sam helped the kid. He called in favors and got the kid a job with a landscaping crew. He didn’t stop there. He threw birthday parties for the young man, Super Bowl parties, poker nights, movie nights, trips to the beach, and cookouts. He treated the kid like family.
Today that kid owns his own company and has his own family.
Sam’s garage apartment was also home to a woman and her son—a boy with autism. The single mother had been living in a bad neighborhood, her life was an uphill battle. Sam gave her a free place to stay and helped her with bills.
He bought her groceries, he babysat her son when she was at work. He taught the boy to play football. He taught the child to swim.
But these are just some of the highlights of that little one-bedroom apartment owned by the simple gray-haired man. If the sheetrock in that place could only speak, I’ll bet it would tell all sorts of stories about the people who lived there.
I understand there are many of these sorts of stories.
But if you ask me, the real story isn’t about single mothers, wayward souls, or blind old men with two-way radios. It’s about a gray-haired somebody who had an extra room. About a man who never made the newspaper, who never won any awards, a man who didn’t want his name used.
A man who once thought his life was over after his best girl died from cancer.
“To us he was ‘Dad,’” said Sam’s daughter. “But to a lot of people he was kind of an angel, you know?”
Yes. He kind of was.
And as of last week, Sam finally got his wings.