Michael O’s Story
Location: Gateway via Bec Cranford
Male, Age 64
“UPBEAT, OUTGOING, INTELLIGENT, EMPATHETIC, PERCEPTIVE, HONEST”
Daniel Enger (Interviewer) Good afternoon, Mike, today is October 20, 2021, and we are here at the Gateway Center in Metro Atlanta. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with you Mike I appreciate very much you taking the time today, and I’m looking forward to hearing your story, and to learning from you. Mike my first question for you is a really big one namely, please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day and please start by saying your name.
Mike: Good afternoon, my name’s Mike I grew up in New York City, born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens. I’m the oldest of four children I was the first grandchild and I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I enjoyed free speech, and I was a very vocal individual, I didn’t follow school all that much because I thought rock and roll, girls, and sports, were more important than studying. When I became about 12 years old, I started noticing that I had an undercurrent of depression it was right below the surface and I didn’t know what was going on or how to deal wit it I guess it distracted me a lot from my schoolwork it’s made me a stronger person now, I think I was rebellious growing up but I just always wanted to be a very vocal person and express myself in many different ways it’s not always the best way. And I alienated a lot of friends, a lot of people, I became a loner I dealt with depression a lot in my life. I came down to Georgia to begin again just to find that there was a better way for me to be alive and experience things in life. It was quite a different change coming to Georgia but it was a good change I think I knew that what didn’t work for me in New York wouldn’t work for me in Atlanta. So, I guess I got more reflective and I started trying to find out about me, who I am what’s really going on, what makes me angry, what makes me cry, what makes me happy. I was admitted to a hospital down here at Emory hospital psychiatric evaluation it was necessary difficult but necessary. And I begin to find out more about myself and how I related to people and how people responded to me. I think I began to understand God and I began to understand nature, I know I’m very fortunate to be here as we speak now. I’m 64 years old and I feel like I’m 35. There’s a lot to live for and there’s a lot to do that we can manage a way to help each other understand each other more. And I think that the thing that is most important about people is it’s what you say, how you say it, but then also everyone here is different, everyone takes in information differently so you gotta be careful what you say and how you say it. Then try to understand that each individual doesn’t hear every word you say the same way and that’s what makes us all different. I know we live in a capitalistic society and a lot of people who are homeless don’t ever get a chance to take what capitalism can bring to your life and I think what is unique about being human is the fact that we all need to start listening to each other not because of what we’re supposed to say to each other but what we really want to know about each other and how we say it. Because like I said everyone hears what you have to say differently, we all take things in our own way and perception is part of the problem and part of the answer. So, like I’m here with this study today and I know Dan you have your questions and policies and procedures but the most important thing is I can see your listening to me and that’s a good thing because that’s the beginning it’s not about money it’s about listening and hearing the person. You know some people have money and their homeless Iand that’s their story but I guess the thing I’m tryna say is just begin to listen don’t make homelessness part of the capitalistic system of society because that’s what the healthcare system is all about making money out of making people better don’t do that with someone who is homeless. Just take them for who they are listen to them and begin to understand I mean you know we’re not a product we’re people.
Daniel: Mike, of all the things you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Mike: I’m most proud of the person I’ve become as a man. Like I said I used to be very devious, and very self-centered, it was all about me and self-gratification. It’s not like that anymore I’ve come to accept me as I am and I come to appreciate the life that happens and that goes on around me. At the same time, it’s very painful to be where I am but it’s a good thing that I’m still here and functioning and being able to do pretty much anything I want to do. God gave us free-will you know it’s how we use it and what we do with it to help each other I guess that’s I’m here to inspire here to give others hope. Because what people see in me, they say wow look at Mike he’s battled, he’s overcome obstacles and he still going, even though it’s difficult he’s still here and he’s still going. And that’s what I’m most proud of, God has allowed me to suffer, God has allowed me to celebrate but it’s all for cause and it’s in his plan and he hasn’t revealed any of it to me. And if I did, I bet I’d mess it up I’d mess up the whole thing I’m grateful, so I’m grateful.
Daniel: Mike, you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from experiences in your life so far, if you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids in your community giving them guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what would you tell them?
Mike: Enjoy your youth, enjoy the moment because take your time just be free spirited, be who you are. Because things will come to you in time, don’t be in a hurry just be who you are.
Daniel: Mike, I’d like to turn to today please to the present time. Mike in what ways would you say that your life is going well these days? Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present time.
Mike: Life is good because I get a chance to slow down stop and look at myself and realize what I have. I have my health, I have people who care about me, and life goes on. I’m fortunate that I’m here because I should be dead 10 times over by now and for some reason God has kept me alive. He isn’t finished with me yet and there’s still things that I can do and my whole thing is reaching people. I get such gratitude outta relating to people that it’s just part of a better world. I make a difference I make life better cause I believe in things that have to be better. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, I know what I want out of life now I get the time to reflect and look at me and say how am I gonna get it.
Daniel: Mike, how did that happen? What led to those going well for you, how did that happen? Who or what has contributed most to your doing well these days?
Mike: Others, other people who have been where I’ve been who are able to say Mike no matter how tough it is it’s gonna be alright. We live in a capitalistic society where everybody’s out for themselves and the amount of things that you accumulate make you who you are. That’s not what’s being humans about and I know you know that. It’s about brotherhood it’s about being with each other it’s about community we need to find out who we are and what we’re about.
Daniel: Mike, looking ahead when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Mike: Just to enjoy life you know you’re not promised tomorrow so live it today. Enjoy the moment, be who you are, and enjoy who you’re with.
Daniel: Mike, as you pursue those hopes and dreams what are some of the personal strengths you draw on?
Mike: My own self-image, my own ability to relate to people, to voice my opinion, to be who I am, just to be able to look back and say hey I’ve seen a lot of stuff that is not very pleasant but you know what I’m okay right now and it’s probably made me stronger. I’m probably a better person for it so I’ll just go on and be who I am, and let things happen as they do.
Daniel: What challenges and obstacles do you see standing between you and the realization of your hopes and dreams, today what holds you back?
Mike: Me, me, it’s what I want to do and how far I want to go. It’s up to me free will.
Daniel: Mike, what needs to be done so that those challenges and obstacles can be overcome so that you can realize your personal hopes and dream?
Mike: I need to be able to communicate what I feel when I’m going through and I need the powers to be to be open and willing to hear it and listen. Like I said we live in a capitalistic society it’s all about what we own, what we have, and how well, and it’s not. It’s about us it’s about people, it’s about others and that’s just not talked about enough.
Daniel: Mike, allow me now to please shift to the community. How would you describe your community today who are the people who make up your community?
Mike: The people in my community are people who have suffered, have disabilities in many different ways but who find the strength and courage to live every day to live the best way they can.
Daniel: When it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in your community?
Mike: Just listening and talking to each other having the idea that you are somebody having enough courage to believe in yourself that there are better days ahead and don’t let the things that are right in front of you stop you from doing anything in this life.
Daniel: In your community what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they strive to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives?
Mike: I think a lot of it is about what we draw on commonly we all got here in different ways but we’re all here to find a better life. And you know what we do is we discuss our differences, and the things we have in common, and we find mutual ground and we exist and we learn to be with one another as who we are.
Daniel: Once again for your community what are the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? In your community what holds people back?
Mike: Probably not enough resources, there needs to be more focus on what is going on with people and people need not to feel like they don’t count, people need to be heard and listened to. We do it with each but other people need to hear it too, other people need to take the time to understand, hear us and appreciate what we go through.
Daniel: To a certain extent you just answered this next question partially. What needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles can be overcome that hold people back from people in your community from realizing their hopes and dreams and living healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives?
Mike: For me it’s all about listening and hearing the person like your doing your asking me questions and I’m trying to be open about it that’s the beginning. It’s not about I can get you a job, I can get you housing, but you gotta take this step, that step, ABC in order to do that to get there. See, that’s the system start listening to people and hearing what their saying just take people for who they are, just hear us, just listen.
Daniel: Mike, imagine you’re a powerful leader you’re a decision maker who can really make things happen how would you change the system to help people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives?
Mike: Just make people understand it’s not about money because like I said what we do is we define each other by things, just recognize the person for who they are and help them along just by being there. Everything is about what we own, what we have, I have a Lamborghini, I have a house on a hill in a Stone Mountain, Sandy Springs, wow look at me look at what all I’m doing. Have you looked at the persons heart they might be as hollow as anything you’ve ever seen. You have to understand it’s not about things it’s about people.
Daniel: And finally, Mike, imagine you had a million dollars and you could spend it to help your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives, how exactly would you spend a million dollars?
Mike: First I’d do a survey and ask people what they want, find out what’s going on who they need to talk to and how I can provide services that they need. I don’t know that’s a great question but you just have to find the need, find it.