She was homeless because she couldn't read. And then she met a hero.
After encountering her regularly in downtown Orlando, Greg Smith befriended a woman named Amy Joe who was homeless. As they began to spend more and more time together, Amy Joe revealed something to Greg about herself that astonished him. He posted about it on Facebook:
"Meet 'Amy Joe'. For the last few weeks each Tuesday, Amy Joe and I meet at the corner of Pine street and S. Orange ave in downtown Orlando (I work downtown and am always moving around the city). Each day for about a week I saw Amy Joe at this corner and she never asked for money...she simply said 'Good morning Sir, have a great day. God Bless!!' and smiled. I wear a suit to work everyday so I get asked a lot for money quite often downtown...but never once from Amy Joe."
"Every Tuesday Amy Joe and I now have Lunch together. For 30 min to an hour I get to hear how positive she is even though she really has nothing. Last week Amy Joe kind of dropped a bomb on me...she cannot read. Amy Joe does not smoke, drink, have a drug addiction, or anything to that nature. She simply just has never had anyone teach her how to read. She told me how hard it was for her to find work not being able to read. She began to tell me any money that she can collect she uses to check out library books that help with learning to read instead of buying FOOD. This crushed me!!! She would rather learn to read to maybe find a job then eat!!! I have been blessed with two amazing parents and a family that has always had resources to provide me with anything I wanted to do. Amy Joe has not. So now not only do Amy Joe and I sit and have lunch, I'm teaching her to read. I rent one library book a week and we read it together Tuesday and she practices on her own throughout the rest of the week. This post is in no way to make anyone feel sorry for Amy Joe or brag about me doing something for someone less fortunate. I wanted to share this because maybe this can lead to someone helping another person. There are a lot of people out there like Amy Joe, not all are hungry, homeless, or hurt. Some could be your family or friends. Helping someone could be as easy as saying hello and smiling. I have been fortunate enough in my finances that I can take care of Amy Joe, so that's what I'm going to do. If this is something that hit home with you, Like & Share it...if not, that's okay too. But you never know what you can do for someone until you try. Who is your Amy Joe?!?!? #humblepie"
Greg's post — which started simply as something he shared with his friends — was soon shared over 40,000 times. Greg subsequently decided to take advantage of their newly found fame to raise enough money to get Amy Joe settled into an apartment so that she wouldn't have to live on the streets any more. So he set up a GoFundMe page. Meanwhile, he also took Amy Joe to a friend of his who was a hairstylist to give her a new look for her new start in life.
In just nine months, the "Amy Joe Foundation" campaign had exceeded its $10,000 goal. Greg was ecstatic.
"WE DID IT!!!" he posted as the page's final update. "I am so grateful that I have gotten to be apart of something so special. Amy Joe and I want to thank every individual that has contributed in any way helping to change her life and I also want to thank Amy Joe for changing mine. I never expected the first day Amy Joe and I had lunch what this would turn into, but I guess the greatest things in life come when you least expect them. God Bless!!!"
Amy Joe isn't alone. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that 14% of American adults have a below basic level of prose literacy. That means they have no more than the "most simple and concrete literacy skills." If you've been inspired by Greg and Amy Joe's story and you're interested in getting involved with a literacy program in your local community, resources are generally available at public libraries or check out this directory.
Hats off to Greg for taking the time to invest in Amy Joe's future. To quote him, "Who is your Amy Joe?"