by Rob Schwarzwalder
March 23, 2015
This afternoon I met a man on the street named Tony. A tall, handsome African-American man, he was well-spoken and dressed warmly in a new-ish parka. We talked for a while in front of the shelter where he resides currently.
Tony is homeless and lives at a mission not far from Capitol Hill. Gregarious but soft-spoken, he told me a bit about his life and noted he had attended four colleges. He also said he had run competitively with some of track’s greatest.
So, when I got back to my office, I looked him up. In roughly 25 years in the nation’s capital, I’ve been scammed a lot by people on the street, so my skepticism is not without some history.
Tony was telling the truth. In fact, he was an All-American in 1977 in the two-mile relay.
Since then, he’s spent time in prison – I don’t know for what — and now is hoping for a job as a maintenance man at a store near downtown D.C. He is to find out if he gets the job on Friday.
From All-American collegiate athlete to being a homeless ex-inmate hoping for an entry level cleaning-type job: Life’s journey can be strange and painful.
At one point, I made some comment like, “With God, there are always new chances.” Tony stared at me hard and said, “It’s predestined, isn’t it?”
As a moderate Calvinist, I was a little taken aback, but not wanting to get into the Reformed-Arminian controversy quite so extemporaneously, I said simply, “We all have to make choices.” He said, quietly, “Amen.”
My prayer for Tony is that he will make the right choices from hereon, that if he hasn’t yet found new life in Christ that he will, and that God will guide and bless his life as Tony seeks to restore years eaten by the locusts of deception and evil. And I hope I don’t soon forget Tony: With only a few wrong decisions over the course of my more-than five decades of life, I might be standing beside him on the street, wondering if I’ll find work pushing a broom somewhere. There, but by the grace of God …