Through a Stranger’s Eyes

Joe Rodriguez once read somewhere or perhaps heard someone say that: to really know or understand something it’s important to look to the past. His story begins thirty-one years ago. Like many people, he grew up under modest conditions in San Antonio, Texas—although at times his family may have been considered poor by government standards. Joe’s mother had him and his twin sister: Jennifer—whom he considers to be one of the primary driving forces in his life—at the young age of 17. His mother was a victim of domestic violence; and by the age of six, Joe had lost his biological father to an ill temper and alcohol. While those unfortunate circumstances may have set anyone back, they didn’t deter Joe from pursuing his passion for service and finding unique ways to communicate his thoughts and ideas as a writer.

A Call to Service

After waking up on numerous occasions to the sounds of his mother crying and feeling helpless because he didn’t know what to do, Joe spent much of his life wishing he would have done more to stop his stepfather from using her as his punching bag. When she finally found the courage to divorce him when Joe was 9, he vowed to do anything and everything within his power to be an advocate for the most vulnerable and a voice for the voiceless. This promise led him first to the Marine Corps where he served as a Human Resources Assistant, preparing Marines for deployment around the world. He ensured their families were well taken care of in terms of pay, other entitlements, and insurance. When his contract expired in 2009, Joe moved to the Washington Metropolitan Area in search of another unique opportunity to continue his service. He found that chance as a civilian employee within the federal government where he is currently employed as a Lead Recruiting Coordinator responsible for scheduling interviews and communicating with applicants about the hiring process. This position, although not permanent, has given him the flexibility to pursue other interests while living out his promise to be an advocate. Many of his colleagues rely on him to solve their administrative problems and represent their equities to external offices, other organizations, and interested people—giving him a greater sense of purpose.

A Writer in the Making

As a young boy, Joe faced constant criticism over his unconventional behavior. He didn’t enjoy playing sports or other outdoor activities like many boys his age. Instead, Joe preferred reading about the game to his stepfather’s dismay. But when it came to reading and writing, he found that he was a lot better at it than his own mother and stepfather who tried to help him with his homework. They each had a third-grade literacy level and never finished high school. However, despite ongoing tension within his childhood home, they still sought to encourage him by delivering spelling tests and quizzing him on books he was required to read. For every word he misspelled, he was scolded by his stepfather. His stepfather was terrified of Joe becoming a refrigeration mechanic and frequently made it a point to drill home the idea of working in an air-conditioned office as opposed to installing it under the heat of the sun—which Joe, in a strange way, attributes as the reason for most of his success and ambition. While writing has been one of Joe’s strengths since he was a boy, he never took the time to fully immerse himself in the development of his skill until recently. He’s been fortunate to have friends that continue to push him to reach his full potential and hone his craft by constantly creating or as his friends like to say, “Always be writing.” He has written many short stories, essays, and poems—some of which you will find on this website and on Medium—inspired by a variety of real events and should reveal his true nature and development as a writer.

Stories Make Us Whole

It’s no secret that stories help us to better understand the world. They essentially make us more complete or whole. Without stories, Joe would argue that our lives would be almost nonexistent and even boring. Many of his sources of inspiration include Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Pablo Neruda because their stories and poems often challenged the status quo and forced us to consider lives different from the ones we’re experiencing. During the darkest moments of Joe’s childhood, it was the stories that he read that ultimately shined a light on the possibility of a brighter future. He now hopes to continue the legacy of the writers who have gone before him to create stories that will be meaningful and everlasting.

To see the world through a stranger’s eyes is transformative. It has the power to improve our lives and circumstances. In the end, we can all live happily ever after. That’s the hope that stories can bring, and the one Joe intends to advocate through his writing to change the world.