"Across the Table"
Holly Bovio


"I was a mountain boy," Samuel James said, starting our conversation about the Open Door Ministry Shelter. "I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and followed my sister and mother to High Point."

Samuel arrived at the Shelter the first week of February after stuff happened that he did to want to discuss and his time living with his sister and mother was up. He was "down and out" and knew he had 90 days at the Shelter to get his life back together. He couldn't do it by himself. Samuel wanted to beat the goal of 90 days and never changed his address to receive mail at the Shelter or moved all of his clothes.

His first goal was to find a job which was a major struggle until a volunteer at Open Door sat with him at her computer as they searched a job database and most importantly kept his spirits up. Within the first morning, Samuel had four places that were interested in his skills as a cook. He interviewed at the first place to call him up. He shaved and looked presentable and was hired that day. He told me he really likes his General Manager and is always early to work. "I'm a time guy," he said.

Goal number two was to get an apartment of his own. On the day we met, the second week of March, Samuel had just signed his lease and with the help of Open Door, had put down a security deposit and his first month's rent. "I'm leaving Open Door, but I will never forget it. I've made friends with a few young men and I want to volunteer at Open Door. I made sure to surround myself with good people here, people I could have conversations with. I like helping people and I'll be back here to help others."

Samuel credits the people at Open Door with his success, including the Shelter director, volunteers, and a pastor who holds Bible Study at the Shelter. The pastor encouraged Samuel to play drums in the church choir. He is now the sound guy for the church and working on becoming an assistant deacon. Samuel has encouraged other men from the Shelter to be a church usher and a Sunday school teacher.

The Pastor preached on a recent Sunday, "Don't look back."

"I paid attention," Samuel said, "I had to look forward to a favorable future."

Samuel pauses and smiles. "I am most proud of my three boys. The proudest day of my life will be when they graduate from high school. I want to motivate them to be better than me and to study hard. My one-year-old has the same birthday as me. My eight-year-old is my mini-me and likes helping people. My ten-year-old has autism and he is very smart."

Samuel told me Open Door Ministry was a stepping stone to help him see the potential in himself.

"Open Door helped me find a job, get my meds sorted out, made me an appointment with a primary care physician, helped me get an apartment, and get me back on track," Samuel said. "On a day-to-day basis, Open Door gave me a roof over my head, helped me feel safe and secure, gave me food, a place to shower and shave. Now, my life is back in order and moving in the right direction."

"I was in the valley," Samuel told me, "then I was half-way up the mountain and now, I'm at the top of the mountain. I have my job and I have my apartment. I am blessed."