This is the bed Father Joe sleeps in every night, in the humble home he resides in across the street from the homeless shelter he’s dedicated decades of his life to energizing — to help others experience dignity.
This bed was a donation from the VA Hospital. It’s many, many decades old. It’s not state-of-the-art or flashy, or even level. But to Father Joe, it’s enough. It does what it’s intended to do. He is begrudgingly getting a new bed soon, as one of his care providers wants him to be in a more comfortable and suitable bed, especially since Father Joe is a double amputee below the knee.
To me, this bed is a metaphor for his life. It’s unassuming, simple and serves its purpose. That’s the man “Joey Carroll” grew up to be because that’s who he’s always been. Unassuming. Simple. Purposeful. That’s how I perceive him. That’s my experience of him spanning four decades, from when I met him as a little girl to now as a grown woman invited to be his life’s storyteller.
I took this photo the other day when I dropped by to surprise him with a song I wrote about him — a lyrical story of how I’ve taken the harvest of his story and simplified it down to the seeds of love he planted. While harvest is what many desire to experience and what’s most often glorified in this day and age, every story roots back to the intention that energizes seed planting. Father Joe dug deep to provide countless neighbors with dignity. He did so with an unassuming simple purpose — yet he’s been able to have a “mega” impact.
That’s the story I have been guided to share, and it’s personal for me because Kathryn the Grape is actually rooted in his landscape of goodness. My mom bought my signature Kathryn the Grape purple outfit at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in downtown San Diego in the 1980s. She was the first person Father Joe hired to help him fulfill the mission of building a homeless shelter on an empty lot of land in downtown San Diego. They worked side by side for those first years.
There are many people like me who can trace back to how this man impacted their lives. Soon, I will share the golden seeds I’ve extracted from the stories of his life’s harvest. We are what we plant. We are what we water. May we cultivate a life of goodness to help everyone grow, including ourselves.
And may we be reminded by the photo of this bed that there are many people cultivating mega impact living humble lives. There’s so much goodness being watered every day.