|Ms. Gay Towel, once a child without a home, now sacrifices for others. Her compassion and joy spills out as she tells her story.|
When she was 14 years old, Gay and her siblings found themselves homeless. Her mother left town, only taking two of her five children with her. Gay’s baby sister ended up with her biological father while Gay and her twin brother, Jay, had no one to turn to. They were left all alone to fend for themselves. “What do you do?” she reflects. “You make it somehow.” With God’s grace, they did just that.
Jay decided that Gay would attend school and he started working. For a few years this arrangement worked out, keeping them together and off the streets. Until, Jay, after receiving several traffic tickets stood before a judge with an ultimatum — he could either go to jail or join the Army. Jay chose the Army, leaving Gay homeless once again at the age of 17.
It was then that Gay confided in the assistant principle at her high school, Mr. John Brown. Tears stream down her face as she unfolds the tale of his kindness. See, Mr. Brown was a black man and Gay was a white girl. It was not acceptable for them to talk to one another, even though the school was now integrated.
Gay recalls that once people realized she was from “the same side of the tracks, just a different color,” she was allowed to associate with him. Mr. Brown, who she calls her “guardian angel,” showed his fatherly love for this young girl by paying her rent and utilities and buying her groceries until she graduated high school. He then guided her down the path to college and ultimately to a degree in social work.
A few years later, Gay learned that Mr. Brown had contracted cancer and had passed away. She attended his funeral at the cost of losing her job. Her voice cracks as she says, “My heart has always been with the people that don’t have anything — because when I needed it, others were there helping me.”
Gay is now a regular volunteer at Feed My Sheep. What started out as just a couple of trips, turned into serving five days a week. She helps to build case files for clients. She primarily works with people who need birth certificates. Volunteering so frequently is critical to all because she is able to follow through on needed paperwork and requests, as well as providing clients with timely answers.
Gay has met and assisted many people in her time at Feed My Sheep, but there is one man to whom she feels a deep connection. “This man I’m helping now… he’s a twin, just as I am; he’s left handed, just like I am; he has a twin sister, I have a twin brother; he’s a veteran, my brother is a veteran; we were both born in the same year, just a couple of months apart.”
She beams at the thought of him. “My heart, just by his smile, it melted me. To the point where I was going to do anything I could to help him. Whatever it took.” And this gentleman needed someone who would do whatever was necessary.
Hitchhiking his way back to Temple from Waco, he found himself in a terrible situation. A driver stopped to pick him up and he tossed his backpack into the bed of the guy’s truck. The man sped off, riddling him with gravel. There he stood, alone — all his belongings, all his identification, stolen. He managed to get back to Temple and tell Gay his story.
Gay went to work right away, starting with the basics. She knew that if she could get his health records and school records she would be able to prove that he existed and then apply for his birth certificate. After some research she was able to secure all of those items, along with his DD214. (A DD214 is the Army’s discharge paperwork.) This is where they ran into a problem. Veterans Affairs (VA) turned him away because it said dishonorable discharge. He told her that it originally said, other than dishonorable discharge, which would qualify him for VA assistance. Gay was able to talk to someone at the VA and straighten out the whole situation. Now, he is able to get his benefits from the VA. A man with nothing now has access to help that would have been denied him without proper identification.
Gay smiles bright and says, “When he sees me now he lights up like a Christmas tree.”
These two souls have become a holiday gift to one another. A light to each other and the community. Using the strength she gained by surviving her own childhood turmoil, Gay’s depth of love and dedication to volunteering is making a profound difference in her community, one life at a time.
By Rebecca Morales
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