Seventeen-year-old Brittany Deez packed up and left home. She was on probation, but this was better than dealing with a home filled with addiction and toxic people. She had been in and out of detention centers her whole life, and she knew she had to get away if she wanted to get her life together.
“Leaving was my only option.”
Her mother gave her an uninsured, beat-up truck and she drove to Tallahassee, where she stayed overnight with some extended family members and got a job at a truck stop, where she also spent the night sleeping inside her truck. She lived off food from the Subway she worked at and used the $5 showers at the truck stop. Whenever possible, she would crash on a friend’s couch.
A few months later, she got a second job that required her to drive between the two in the half hour she had between shifts. Her truck was burning up, and it was pouring rain—she had to stop.
“I stopped at the next gas station up the street to add some coolant, when a homeless man approached me, beer in hand,” Deez wrote on Quora.
He said: “Good morning, please let me help you, when you take that top off, you’re going to get hurt young lady.”
She whipped around and snapped at him. She said she didn’t need any help, and didn’t have any money to give him. So he just sat back down.
But after Deez opened the truck up, she realized it didn’t need coolant at all; the coolant was full. She needed oil, and had no money to buy any. To make the situation worse, she had a check on her, she just hadn’t had time to cash it yet and was stranded without cash, and now about to lose her other job.
So she got back into the car to cry.
“The homeless man comes to my window and signals for me to roll it down. I do hesitantly. That’s when he asked me for .83 cents,” Deez recounted. Now she was livid.
“Angrily, I told him again, ‘I am broke. Please, I’m having a hard time right now, don’t ask me for money.'”
Her reaction surprised even herself—“I’ve never really been a mean person”—but that wasn’t even the worst part.
“The words hit my stomach as soon as they came out my mouth, but what came out of his mouth was the big KO,” she shared.
“I’m not asking you for money, I am asking you for .83 cents to go with the $2.17 I have to buy you some oil.”
He ended up scrounging something up to buy her oil, put it in her truck, and she just cried.
“I was so ashamed of myself, the way I treated this man was atrocious and I had to make my wrong right. After adding the oil, he drops my hood and slaps my hood twice,” she wrote. “I guess that’s the universal sign of, well, off you go. He smiled as I thanked him and pulled away.”
It was far from the last time she saw him.
On her way to work she called her boss and explained what had happened and that she would be late, then decided she needed to head straight to the bank. There, she cashed her check for $300 and prayed the homeless man was still in front of the gas station she just left so she could pay him back. It sparked a long conversation where they shared life stories, and as they became friends she started visiting him regularly to bring him sandwiches and showers.
Buddy, as they named him, became a regular fixture in her life and routine—until one day where she didn’t see him by his usual spot for three days in a row.
“It was cold and dark,” Deez remembered, using her phone as a flashlight. Then she heard the sound of someone in pain.
“I knew Buddy was hurt. I came running to find him at the bottom steps of his fort.”
She tried to help him up but he said she couldn’t call an ambulance because then the police would make him knock down his fort. Deez reached out to the only other person that she knew would have the means to help—her boss. But he didn’t want anything to do with it. But she begged and bawled and eventually he helped her carry Buddy to the hospital.
Even after he was hospitalized, Deez made sure to keep in touch. She would call and visit, because, well, “he was my family.”
Eventually, they learned that Buddy was terminally ill, and wouldn’t have much longer to live. He told her as much very frankly, and said he thought he’d “have enough time to right my wrongs.”
His one regret was being estranged from his daughter and having never tried to go back home or contact her.
Deez asked for her name, and got to searching. On Facebook, she got almost an immediate hit.
“I reached out and explained everything, hoping this woman was the right one. The only thing she wrote back was her phone number and in cap locks:
“PLEASE CALL ME NOW.”
Deez, who was putting Buddy up at a motel after he was discharged at the hospital, rushed outside to give this woman a call.
“She was crying and asking to please speak with her Dad. She explained she missed and loved him dearly, he wasn’t a bad Dad. No, in fact he was a great father and she knew his struggle,” Deez wrote. Buddy was a veteran whose mental health plummeted after returning home, and eventually he could not take the pressure and fled.
“Even as a 6-year-old child, when he left, she knew and she’d always been waiting… how amazing was her empathy.”
Deez walked back into the hotel room and handed him the phone. As Buddy heard the woman’s voice, he immediately knew who she was. She left them to their conversation, then booked him the next Greyhound out to where his daughter lived—now married to a military man and with four kids.
“I dropped him off at the bus station at 2 p.m. on that Tuesday. Haircut, brand new clothes, some cash, and a positive outlook for the rest of his life. We spoke until he could no longer speak, and then his daughter kept me informed,” Deez wrote.
Buddy died seven months later, but his impact on Deez would stay with her forever.
When he told Deez his last dying wish, he was crying over the fact that he hadn’t righted this wrong.
“Buddy has no idea, I righted one of my wrongs through him a year ago,” when they first met, Deez wrote.
“If you search for the good in people, you surely will find it.”