Our Stories Unite Us

He had spent some time in prison. Today, he was standing in my kitchen.

Only two years older than I, deep heavy grooves etched into his face clearly showed his road in life had been rougher than mine.
Or maybe I just hid mine better?

Hired him to demo my floors. His name was Tacho.

Brought his son along. The “white one” his dad called him. Twenty-one. Bluest eyes.

Covered in tattoos. Handsome. Sweet. Polite. Careful. Educated.

Cut his finger badly. Bled profusely. Ran to get him a bandage. Needed two.

Shrugged the pain off. Showed me his numerous other scars. Souvenirs from another lifetime; gangland.
I wanted to mother him, care for his injury. Asked him throughout the day how he was doing…

Tacho talked non-stop to his boy for two solid days, about the business, and about God.

Brought them burgers and fries.
Stunned. Touched.
Worked diligently.
Offered to lift a heavy mattress up the stairs for me before they left.

“Anything else?”

No, thank you. This is great.

Tacho had been homeless.
Witnessed his mother get beat, then took his turn on the receiving end of his father’s anger.

Took to alcohol to obliterate the confusing pain crippling the little boy inside him too. When that little boy grew up, he did some lashing out of his own.

Beat his children. Continued the only cycle he ever knew.

Went to jail. Paid some dues.
Found mama. Found God.
Attempting to make amends.

Shared a bit of my story, and I could see it hurt him to think of me in that way.

“How were you treated on the streets?”

Shrugged the pain off. Assured my new friend;

“Mostly, I was ignored. It was my father folks that I had issues with. If I was acknowledged, it was with pity or concern. No one hurt me.”

My honest response shifted the clouds blanketing his aged eyes; my answer released something that continues to clutch at his tender heart: fear, of a reality that nobody wants to experience.

Nobody wants to go there. And once you have, you never wish to go back.

Compassion pulled us closer.
His heart was still in there, surrounded by the scars of a lifetime of self-flagellation.
Aching to heal.
I got it.
Tacho and I?
We were different, but we were the same.

Before he left, my new friend showed me the dripping water the demolition had uncovered. Slab leak. Ugh.

Called a local highly recommended plumber. His name was Angel.
Adorable. Sincere. Came right over. Aptly named, he was indeed an angel.

Brought his equally adorable brother-in-law and son. Teaching him the business, and how to treat customers and their homes, filled his five days here.
The epitome of manners, the entire time. Charged me one-third what the other guys wanted. Fair-minded.

Guatemalan. Hard worker. Respectful of my things. Apologetic for the invasive necessity of his work.
Broom in hand every night before he left, tidying up.
Made sure I had one full working bathroom every day, no matter what the hassle.
Would not leave until the hot water flowed.

Brought them muffins.

“Oh, thank you!! These are delicious with coffee.”

Offered to lift a cumbersome mini fridge out of the car for me.

“Want us to set it up?”

No, thank you. This is more than enough.

Left them alone in my home on several occasions. Never worried.
On the last day, I wrote them a check.

 “The bank will call you. They always call.” Angel warned,

Made me sad. Then angry. Told him I could relate to the discrimination; used to do business with a man who’s religious beliefs forbid him to accept money from a woman.
I paid all the bills for our company. That was my job. He returned the check.
Every single time.
Without apology.

Sure enough, a few hours later, a teller from the bank called to confirm the check was valid.
Angel and I?
We were different, but we were the same.

With the plumbing finished, I was off to buy new appliances. Met Mark. Actually, someone else was helping me, but he walked up and told the guys he would take care of me. And he did.

Asked what appliances I had purchased?
“Everything. Gutted my kitchen.”

Nodding in agreement;

“I’m doing that too. Only I have to buy Viking and Sub-Zero.”

Been there, done that. Expensive!

“Yeah, but my realtor assures me I can get $2 million more if I upgrade.”

Dumbfounded, I bluntly asked, “How much is your home worth now?”

“Twenty-three million. Bought it in 1999 for eight million. Overlooks the ocean in San Clemente.”

He never missed a beat. The other sales people could hear everything he said. I knew for certain he was telling me the truth. I liked him. Kinda of in awe of him, to tell you the truth.

Tall. Attentive. Direct.

Part of his cranium was missing. The right side of his skull was concave. The eye beneath weak.

Sincere in tone. Present. I wanted to caress his scar because I knew nobody had.

Couldn’t help asking, “Why are you working here?”

Shrugging away the pain of loneliness he said;

“Something to do. I sold a patent to British Petroleum and retired at twenty-five. Degree was in Chemical Engineering. Went crazy with nothing to do.”

I jumped in with, “I’d be traveling the world!”

“I did that. I did it all. This keeps me sane.”

No kids, no love, but he did put his six nieces through college.
Told me this as he offered to carry my item to the front of the store for me;

“I’d carry it to your car, but the store only allows us to carry to the front door.”

Turning back, I shook his hand, “It was nice to meet you, Mark. Feel like I know you now.”

He had the comforts of money, accomplished a lot in his life, but he was lonely. Wanted to talk. Connect.
Mark and I?
We were different, but we were the same.

I am always watching, listening, learning.
My take away?

Each soul has a story to tell. There is no life lived that is not somehow relatable to our own.

The degrees of separation are the ties that bind us.

It’s our stories that unite us.

Share your story, listen to theirs.
Some folks may be closed off, angry, dangerous even.
There’s always a reason for that.

Practice caution, and when you get a good feeling about someone?

Open your heart; become one of the approachable in your everyday life, in society. It will bring our communities, our nation, our world closer, in a good way.

You’ll smile, knowing we’re all in this together.
And you know what? So will they!

Photo Credit ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved


Renee DeMont

Renee DeMont is a SURVIVOR. She was born into poverty; spent much of her childhood homeless, living on the streets of Los Angeles, and in foster care. Renee learned early on: life is about adapting to adversity. The greatest gift she ever received? No one expected anything from her. By 18, she was ready to experience life on her own terms. First one in her family to attend college. After college, her focus and determination earned her a spot working at Paramount Studios, on the #1 show in television, "Cheers". At 29, Renee gave entrepreneurship a go and began a Biomedical engineering business out of her garage. Twenty years later, that risky venture grew into 8,000 square feet of success. She broke the cycle of poverty that plagued her family for generations. Recently, Renee turned fifty, filed for divorce (he declared WAR), and trudged through a debilitating nervous breakdown. Through therapy and writing, she reclaimed her sanity. Sold her half of the business to the ex, and now she has clarity and choices. Renee is personally and financially independent. With her new found freedom, she chooses to write in a sincere effort to reconcile her past with her present. Hopefully, through this cathartic process, the second half of her life will be led by her soul's desire, rather than by the fears and doubts of her first half. Currently, she lives in South Orange County with her teenage son and daughter, and her high maintenance yet lovable dog, Joe. Soon to be an empty nester, she plans to downsize the big house in the OC bubble, for a bigger life in the real world. Her days are spent gently launching her almost grown children into adulthood, and passionately penning her memoir. In the mean time, you can find her essays on pain, positivity, and empowerment at: onedropofgrace.blogspot.com

5 thoughts on “Our Stories Unite Us

  1. Jacqueline CioffaJacqueline Cioffa Reply

    “Open your heart; become one of the approachable in your everyday life, in society. It will bring our communities, our nation, our world closer, in a good way.”

    Beautiful piece, and your sense of empathy and compassion is commendable. Thank you for sharing this golden nugget of wisdom and chances.

    Jackie

  2. Stephanie OrtezStephanie Ortez Reply

    “Each soul has a story to tell. There is no life lived that is not somehow relatable to our own.” well said, Renee. Your compassion never fails, my friend. We have so much to be thankful for. This is beautiful. Xx

  3. doriowendoriowen Reply

    Renee, I am SO happy to read this and hear you share MY philosophy. It’s about second chances, kindness, and belief in the goodness in people. People will be whatever you BELIEVE them to be. I hired a former female prison inmate here in AZ (from Perryville, one of the nation’s worst women’s prisons) to house/pet for me every other week this summer while I traveled to Northern AZ to take care of my Moms. This woman is so kind, so sweet and takes care of my home better than I do! I also use former female inmates to help me clean. I send my unwanted clothes to a group who gives (not sells) them to newly released inmates. We are a community. All of us. I recommend them whenever I can. And the best part? I have many new friends. Wonderful women. The past is just that. They are working to rebuild their lives and, I believe, deserve opportunities. Three will be at my Thanksgiving dinner….although trying to think of a way to explain to my 85 year old Mum! Fabulous piece. xoD.

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