At times in the past while rushing to chase after the biggest paper and the best beat, I neglected to truly tell stories of the people I met, satisfied to take them at first blush.
Sam Meija is different.
I met Sam this week in the offices of a Washtenaw County social services agency that serves the area's homeless population.
I had read briefly about his story on ESPN.com and in the Detroit Free Press, chronicling a journey that started in North Carolina and that continues at the University of Michigan. In between, Sam - who is 35 – endured being homeless, often spending nights in the woods behind the University of Michigan hospital.
In the woods, Sam felt safe, creating a barrier between himself and the cruel stares of those who judge people like him.
Until you get to know him, Sam is quiet and unassuming. But as his personality begins to blossom in front of you, you come to meet a man determined not to be defined by the hand life has dealt him.
At one stage of his homeless existence, Sam decided that for some reason, he had been cast into this life. But after examining what is inside of him, he found that life's circumstances wouldn't keep him from reaching his full potential.
He started by completing his GED. He enrolled at a local community college and then transferred to Michigan. He is now studying mechanical engineering – a year after Sara Silvennoinen discovered him in an Ann Arbor homeless shelter.
Like Sara, I am amazed at the turnabout Sam has brought in his life. Undeterred by his hardships, Sam is determined to make a life for himself – all the while overcoming the odds that have been stacked against him for much of his life.
So Sam, thanks for the life lesson and thanks for teaching me the valuable lesson that people are often so much more than they first appear.