Jose – Learning from the past

18 Aug

Today we begin.  The drive actually starts on Saturday but, as the starting point is Phoenix, that is where our stories begin.  Please check out the “About” section to understand how this works and when you can vote.



Jose was born in San Antonio Texas.  When he was six years old he, his mother and two sisters moved to Seguin, Texas to escape a father who was abusive to his mother.  At that point, as Jose puts it, “I was the man of the house.  I had to take care of Mama.”  He was ten when he saw his father rolling a joint and that is when Jose started smoking pot.  It is also when he joined a gang.  As part of the initiation he got a tattoo.  To make matters worse, the tattoo was on his face.

When he was seventeen Jose was involved in crimes with his gang.  They involved drugs and burglary and, when he was eighteen, he went to prison for fourteen years.

Jose is now 59 years old.  When he looks back on the mistakes he made he knows that he cannot change the past.  He is however, trying hard to change his future, as well as the future of others. As he puts it, “I was always right, I was never wrong.  Everything was for me.”  Now, with maturity and hindsight, Jose speaks from experience.  “I want to be a role model for the kids.  To tell kids, don’t do something wrong because they will regret it.  I took the wrong turn.”

Jose moved from Texas to Arizona in December of 2010 to make a new start.  He had an uncle in Phoenix that he wanted to be closer with and says that he felt his heart was always in Arizona.  When he arrived there, he knocked on the door of his uncle’s house and a stranger answered.  They informed him that they now owned the house as his uncle had died.  Still, Jose plans to stay as he believes this is where he was meant to be.

I met Jose at a job fair.  He was seeking a position as a busboy, dishwasher or something similar.  As he has no car he took the bus by using passes given to him by his case manager at St. Vincent de Paul.  You see, Jose lives in a transitional housing shelter through the non-profit agency.  He volunteers twice per week in the kitchen.

Jose has submitted over 40 applications yet has heard nothing.  He obviously has challenges to overcome.  The face tattoos are obvious, and his felony conviction is a big hurdle.  And then there’s his age. While we’d like to believe life experience is valuable, many of today’s older unemployed are finding that’s just not the case.  “I love working and I feel uncomfortable not working,” he says.  “I want to be somebody.”

His case manager says she wishes she could go with him to apply and interview for jobs to tell potential employers that he will be the hardest working employee they’ve had.  She has even gone as far as to ask her friend, a make-up artist, to teach Jose how to apply make-up to cover his tattoos.

While Jose would like to find a doctor who can remove his tattoos, his immediate concern is finding work.  “I’m hungry for a job.  I can’t give up until I find one.”

As Maya Angelou said, “You did then what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better.”  Jose knows better and is waiting for someone to give him a chance to do better.


2 Responses to “Jose – Learning from the past”

  1. Nancy Harris August 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    How do stories like this not make you cry? We all have made mistakes that we have to live with, but we can usually hide them from others, until we can earn their trust. You have a long road ahead of you girl!


  1. And The Winner Is . . . « Rebel With A Cause - November 30, 2011

    […] winner, with 22.9% of the vote, was Jose.  But just as in life, this project is unpredictable.  You see, another reason for the delay in […]

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