James Robertson is 56.
He lives just outside Detroit, in Rochester Hills. He works the 2-10pm shift at a factory, operating a complicated-looking injection-molding machine.
From Mondays through to Fridays, he walks to work. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. You’d be mistaken.
You see, James’ commute requires him to travel 21 miles EVERY DAY. On foot. It’s an undertaking he has endured since 2005, when his aged Honda gave up and died. In the rain and in the snow, along 8 Mile and through other dangerous neighborhoods, James plods along, his job not paying enough to replace the Honda, the local bus routes not providing a service that enables him to get from his home to his workplace.
‘I can’t imagine not working,’ he says. So he continues to walk . . .
In order to start his shift at 2pm, James must leave Rochester Hills at 8am. He gets home at 4am the following morning, sleeps until 6am and then gets up and prepares to do it all over again. He earns $10.55 an hour at Schain Mold & Engineering and cannot afford to move closer to work. He is softly-spoken and never complains. From being beaten up to enduring the elements, the hardships are immense. Just one thing keeps him going . . .
‘Faith,’ he explains. ‘I’m not saying I’m a member of some church, but just before I get home I say, ‘Lord, keep me safe’.’
In recent days, since the Detroit Free Press documented his story, James’ faith has been repaid (and then some). You see, the community, having heard about this remarkable man’s plight, did something VERY special.
In less than one week, donations from 12,500 people totalled $335,000. Then a local Ford dealership presented him with a brand new car, a red Taurus, worth $37,000, this a marked improvement on the old Honda that, unlike its determined driver, couldn’t last the distance.
‘If only my parents could see me now,’ says James, who, and let’s be clear on this, never once asked for help. Kindness, though, it’s in the air. In Detroit and all over the world. It has a habit of finding those who most need it.
This is a tale that appealed to us a great deal here at OM® because at its root are people. Coming together. Standing together. Making a difference. Connecting . . .
People like Evan Leedy, the 19-year-old college student who set the ball rolling with a crowdfunding campaign. People like Blake Pollock, the banker who, having grown accustomed to seeing James during his own commute, would stop and give a total stranger a ride if ever their respective paths crossed. People like the plant manager’s wife at Schain, who liked to send in home-cooked meals for James in order to keep him going. People like all those who, having read Bill Laitner’s inspirational article in the Detroit Free Press, contacted the newspaper and offered to give James a car, a bike, a ride, whatever he needed. People like James himself, who is appreciative and uncomfortable in equal measure. James who, for all his glad tidings, is concerned about others who might find themselves in a similar situation. That’s the thing about kindness, it tends to be contagious.
‘I’ll never forget this,’ adds James, who travels to work in rather more comfort (and a little less time) these days. Here at OM®, neither will we.