Allan Roberts has seen darker days than many of us. But his determination not to give up and to remain positive has brought light to the lives of many.
In 2002, Roberts was in his late 50s, with a long career as an electromechanical engineer. He had a home in the town of Droitwich, England, with his wife and two daughters. He was still able-bodied then; the blindness would strike later.
His life was like a train smoothly winding through scenic mountains, then suddenly plummeting off a cliff.
His wife managed their finances; he turned his paychecks over to her. The truth emerged that she had badly mismanaged the finances, leaving them 100,000 pounds (about $150,000) in debt. Then she left him for another man.
With the rise of computer technology, Roberts’s trade had slowly become obsolete. Computer engineers were in demand, and this electromechanical engineer was left jobless. He got a job with another company setting up store management systems, but the company had overextended itself and he was laid off.
By 2003, he was forced out of his house. One of his daughters moved in with a friend; his other daughter got a very small trailer to live in by herself.
“I lived in my car for a spell, but I owed my daughter some money, so I gave my daughter the car,” he said. “I was living in a tunnel.”
He has always been the type to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems, he said. “I just saw that light at the end of the tunnel.”
“When I was at my lowest,” Roberts said, “I knew that if I could survive—that was the problem, if I could physically survive with lack of food—I could get myself back on my feet.”
He lost about 70 pounds in the last four months of 2003 due to lack of money for food. He suffered through harsh weather on the streets, and he is diabetic.
“Having never been in that position, I didn’t know who to turn to for help,” he said. After three months on the streets, he did find some help and began to get on his feet. He was given a housing association apartment.
He had a roof over his head, but he didn’t dare turn on the heat or lights without money to pay the bills. He continued to starve.
Finally, he got a steady job as an ambulance driver.
He took every bit of overtime he could get. The dispatchers knew that if they called him when another driver canceled, he would drive, whether it was 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. He regularly worked 90 hours of overtime per month in addition to his 40 hours per week to pay off his 100,000-pound debt in five years.
Then he went blind.
It was 2009, and Roberts was 63 years old. He was loading his groceries into his car when he felt blood spurt into one of his eyes. He got in the car, and he felt it in both eyes. By the time he drove the 200 yards back to his apartment, he had difficulty parking because there was so much blood in his eyes. By the time he got up to his apartment, he was blind.
It was a result of his diabetes and the long-term health problems from his time on the streets.
His daughter moved in with him to help him. “I’d seen in the nursing homes all the old people sitting around and just waiting for their turn to die,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m not prepared to just sit here and wait to die.'”
He started volunteering his time by making phone calls for the Worcestershire Association of Carers. People in difficult situations register with the association for support. They receive a phone call from a volunteer once a month, just so they know someone is thinking about them and willing to listen.
He gave one woman he called his personal phone number because she was very distraught as she struggled to take care of her husband, who had cancer, and her mother-in-law, who was suffering from dementia. He talked to her some 25 hours a week until her situation became more manageable.
“It meant I had contact with somebody outside my house for 25 hours a week, and I felt I was useful again,” Roberts said. “I know I changed her life.”
His eyesight slowly began to return, though it remains limited. He got out and about as soon as he could, even if he was bumping into curbs on his scooter because he couldn’t see too well. He volunteered at a number of community organizations.
He even became a life-coach. Now retired, he still provides support for other life-coaches, and he recently published a motivational book titled “Wake Up Don’t Let the World Pass You By.”
In May of 2015, he was elected as a town councilor in Droitwich.
“If you’re on the river [and] you’re going through the rapids, it’s a difficult time. But at some point, the river will calm down and smooth out. You’ll come to a lake, and everything will be peaceful again,” he said.
In his book, he encourages people to be grateful in some measure for their hardships because they teach important life lessons.
Of his own suffering, he told the Epoch Times: “I didn’t enjoy it. However, I have learned a lot because of it, and therefore I’m aware of situations I wasn’t aware of before. I’m in a better position to help people than I was before, and I’m more likely to help people than I would have done before.”