It was 2011 and Stephen Tith found himself at the coffee shop talking to the woman who sparked the change in his life.
It was as if every step led him to this moment. The flashbacks of what he had gone through now being seen with a strong sense that someone genuinely cared for him without expecting something in return.
The open world was his home, the streets his bed and the train his vehicle. By definition he was homeless but by self-proclamation he was a “traveler” not begging for money and not looking for the world’s sympathy but surviving and trying to figure out his purpose for existence.
To understand what it meant to live was never easy for him, at the young age of seven he witnessed his sister brutally abused by his parents. Those events forever traumatized and instilled within him a fear in trusting people.
He remembers how depression became a familiar friend throughout his life. It was not a dream when he awoke from his mother’s resuscitation with a noose around his neck; but it marked the first attempt of several.
This was the rough roller coaster that he called life.
“I didn’t have a heart…I had a rock,” Tith said.
On the outside he was a shy, positive and intellectual person who passed all his classes throughout high school, but he had a closet filled with skeletons that he mastered at covering up.
Hate and anger filled the “empty void” that replaced his heart during his high school years as Tith described it. What used to be empty and hungering for some sort of attention from his divorced parents turned to a deep pit of frustration and pure hate for people, a mindset that he would hold for many years.
“I was the product of divorce and I didn’t trust the world or people; all that mattered was me,” he said. “And that’s the feeling I wanted to be disconnected from my emotions and bonds with people.”
Tith was determined to be successful for himself but not for the reasons most strive for. He idolized dictators like Hitler and Stalin because they were people who had power and were able to manipulate people by fear to their pleasing. Tith wanted that same control.
To Tith people had significance for the sole purpose of being used, government wasn’t necessary and religion was a mere mythical joke but education was important to gaining power and influencing people for selfish gain.
“Art was always my thing and I wanted to use my talents to destroy and screw things up,” he said. “That was my agenda, that’s what I was about. I didn’t believe in God, I didn’t believe in the human race; this was my way of flipping off the world.”
In his first year of college Tith began to drink and do drugs which paved the way to becoming what he considered at the time a successful drug dealer and eventually getting kicked out of the University of California Riverside.
Drug dealing brought the power that he craved. He wasn’t a stranger to death brushing his face, he had knives and guns at his throat and head. Drugs aided and worsened his depression and nurtured his hatred of people.
Just as his power and influence over people was rising; Tith found that the manipulative hold he had over a few people began to take a toll on him. A small glimmer of humanity began to shine in his life as he realized that he was leading people who looked up to him down a horrible path as himself, he decided to stop.
“I risked my life and came face-to-face with death too many times. I came to the realization I can no longer do this, poisoning people’s lives and my life as well,” Tith said. “My mind was going crazy, I told my drug dealing contacts that I’m out and I became homeless but that’s what ultimately helped in changing me.”
It was then that Tith began to change and the spark for change came at the coffee shop when he met Heidi who showed him that people do genuinely care and are capable of loving people without limits.
In witnessing Heidi’s passion for helping the homeless, it pushed Tith to the idea that there was more to life than previously thought. He was beginning to change.
Today at 30 years old, Tith has broken his mindset of hate and stepped out of the comfort of being shy and reserved with his involvement in Fullerton College As a member of the Political Science Students Association and a senator for Associated Students many find Tith’s friendly attitude to be very welcoming and inspiring.
Jose Solano, president of the PSSA, is someone whom Tith now considers a role model. Solano describes Tith as a very down to earth and caring person who is always encouraging and motivating people.
“He is personable, humble and hardworking,” Solano said. “He keeps me motivated to be a better person, his story has the potential to inspire people to change for the good.”
But change was gradual for Tith as he worked at beginning to trust people and be open with them.
Tith credits the true step to changing resulted over the past summer when he helped serve senior citizens and teenagers with Autism in a soup kitchen at a program called Senior Serve.
It was in helping people that Tith came to the conclusion that he needed to be more active and involved in school. The first few months of this semester he held back until he started to look past his shyness and began to interact with other students, staff and counselors.
In meeting people Tith began to open up and be the social person that people know him as, he also credits his new found faith in Jesus Christ as his savior in aiding him into his changed life and mindset.
“I tried everything to fix my problems but nothing worked until I found out who Jesus was,” Tith said. “I also give credit to the teachers, students and counselors here at school who have impacted me and encouraged me within the short period of time I have been here.”
For anyone who meets Tith and hears his story it’s a tough reality to swallow since it is a stark contrast to who he is today. However, Tith doesn’t let his past effect who he is now, rather he maintains a positive attitude and believes that his past can help people which is why he has decided to study to be a counselor.
“I know how dark and evil the human mind can be,” Tith said. “I know where it can lead people and that’s why I am choosing to be a counselor to help them and let them know someone cares for them.”