My Answer Was Love

I have questioned myself to share my stories with the world because everything I have done to help others was never to receive a reward or credit for my actions.  Instead I followed my heart despite my own materialistic wants in life.  In my heart, I see so many problems in the world and so many people who need help.  I hope by sharing my stories anonymously I can encourage others to do and give more without the fear of living without!  Before I get started, I have to recognize my late brother John who taught me kindness.  Over 30 years ago, we were driving in New York and my brother John had me pick up a hitch hiker.  It was a very cold day and I was saying to John, "You are crazy!  I don’t want to pick this guy up!", but he made me and I'm glad I listened to him.  Johnny asked the guy, "Are you hungry?"  He said yes, so John said to me, "Pull over and get him something to eat."  And so we fed him.  John noticed the man had shoes with no soles so his feet were touching the bare ground, keep in mind it was freezing out.  John asked him,"What is your shoe size?"  The man answered and John said, "Great that is my size", and he gave the hitch hiker his shoes and socks.  We later dropped him off, never to see him again. I was so proud to be his brother because we were poor and John gave the hitch hiker his shoes when he was well aware he did not know where or if his next pair of shoes were going to come.  That day, John taught me kindness and I lived my life with the moral of always be kind to others. 

I have lived in the city of New York almost my entire adult life and in living in New York, you can see a lifetime in just one day!  Through all the hustle and bustle in New York, one thing you cannot miss is the poverty and all the struggle people go through from all walks of life.  We may try to ignore it but you definitely can’t miss it!  I was overwhelmed by how many people needed help, so I started doing little things by giving what little money I had and by offering my food and my home to the homeless.  I remember one time I saw an elderly lady freezing in the subway; I had my favorite coat on and I kept seeing her shivering and I was telling myself there was no way I was going to give my favorite coat up now, no way.  I ended up taking it off and putting it around her and I was cussing God out, telling him, "You are cruel.  Why did I feel compelled to give her my favorite coat?"  I'm still pissed off about giving my coat away, but I guess it's acts like these in my community that alerted an agency that helped people in distress.  I was being recruited by an agency to help others with serious mental and drug problems in New York City.  I was reluctant to do it and I kept telling them there are more qualified people than me.  I kept telling them I only have an 8th grade education, I was a poor writer, and I have no real experience in this field.  Finally, I was convinced, by a lady who told me that I have a heart and compassion to do this work; she even filled out the application for me.  Before I even knew what hit me, I was dealing with some of the most challenging troubled people in New York City.

Here I was, working as a counselor assigned to people with serious addictions or mental health issues with no education or experience other than helping random people in my community.  I was thrown into the fire from the start, the community organization I was working for started me off with one of the toughest cases they had ever encountered.  Somehow they knew I was a sucker for helping people and that I would not say no to someone in need.  It was in the late eighties or early ninety’s when I was introduced to Marlon.  Marlon was one of the most hateful people I had ever met.  He was downright disgusting with people and he had been kicked out of all types of programs throughout New York.  He hated me from the start, he would cuss me out and verbally abuse me.  Marlon complained to the agency almost every day, saying, "I hate this guy.  I don’t trust him."  He was very belligerent with me and he was into some serious drugs, which only amplified his distaste for me and the world.  Marlon was beyond bitter; it was his mission to make everyone's life a living hell.  He had no problem telling me go to hell, amongst other profanities. Reflecting back, I believe he was scared of me because he knew I was not going to go away until we got him help.  I asked Marlon, "Why are you so bitter in life?"  He would answer by telling me to go f*#$ off!  Regardless on how nasty he was to me, I wanted to do a good job and make a difference in his life.  I was in over my head, I did not know what to do or how to help this man.  All I simply relied on was my instinct and my strength through my faith to try to help his situation.  I wanted to help him and I was not going to allow him to walk all over me.  Somehow, some way, he was going get the help he needed.  The more I stood my ground in faith, the more belligerent he became towards me.  Every time we would meet he treated me horrible because he knew in is heart I was not going to back down and that threatened him.  Every time we would meet I would ask him the same question, "Why are you so filled with hatred?  Why are are you so angry with the world?", and without hesitation he would tell me to go to hell.  I slowly earned his trust by stopping by his group home on my days off and checking in on him.  I asked him, "What do you like to do?", he said, "I have never been to a baseball game".  So with my own money, I took him to his first baseball game, not just any game though, a New York Yankees game.  Slowly but surely, I earned his trust.  He was still cussing me out, but gradually it became less and not as harsh.  As I earned his trust brick by brick, I was eventually able to find out why he was so full of hatred.  One day he broke down crying and shared his story.

When he was 14 of 15 years of age, his mother kicked him out of the house because she found a bag of marijuana in his room.  Lost and scared with nowhere to go, he slept under a boardwalk in Staten Island, New York in the freezing cold.  Well, his body did paid a toll, his feet were so badly frost bitten that they had to be amputated.  Marlon’s anger started that day and his anger continued to mount each and every single day there after.  His hatred was focused mainly on his mother for kicking him out, but eventually his hatred spread to everyone.  He did let me know it was because of his mother he lost his feet, and he told me he hates his mother with all his heart.  Marlon's situation became worse when he was shuffled in and out of foster homes where he had to fend for himself.  Because he had no feet, the other kids in the group homes were brutal about his disability which added more fuel to his bitterness and anger towards life.  Marlon felt if his mother would have never kicked him out the house that night, he would not be living in the hell he is in now.  Here I am with this tough case, dealing with abitter, belligerent person who is addicted to heavy drugs and has no feet.  I asked myself, "What can I do and what can the agency do to help him out?"  I went to the agency that I worked for and asked them what can we do to get him prosthetic feet. They agency told me that we can’t do anything for him because Medicare does not cover it, they are expensive, plus he has been turned down many times before.  I sat there thinking that there has to be a way, we can’t just accept that answer for him.  I wanted more for Marlon and I knew deep down inside he wanted more from his life.  The agency was coming down on me, telling me not to give this guy any hope saying, "We have deemed him unemployable, so don’t go filling his head up with nonsense that he can work one day."  I was already insecure of myself in this position, but despite my fears, I could not live with that answer that this guy will never accomplish anything; I could not and would not join the others and give up on him.  Out of options, I just started making some of the most important calls of Marlon's life.

I just picked up a phone book and started calling hospitals throughout New York City telling Marlon's life story.  No one wanted to meet with me except one hospital out of the six I called.  When I got the appointment, I was so scared to meet with these people, "What if they ask me questions and I don’t know the answer, what if they find out I only have a middle school education, what if they find out I have no certification, what if they find out that I’m poor and not smart?" All of these insecurities almost stopped me from showing up to the meeting to share his story, but I thought of how selfish I would be because it was not about me, it was about Marlon.  I was about to walk into a board room full of well educated executives and surgeons.  I said, "God, please help.  What do I say, how do I present Marlon"s case to them?"  I heard this voice inside of me, “Talk to them from the heart”.  So, from the heart, I started telling a board room full of people Marlon's Story.  I did not know what to say or present to them, but they listened to me ramble on about his story. The entire time I was sweating and nervous.  They sat there after I was done, they told me to bring Marlon in to meet them.  So I told Marlon the good news, they want to see him!  He fought with everything he had not to go. Eventually Marlon and I made it to the hospital.  I remember Marlon and I sitting with executives and surgeons in this beautiful board room scared to death.  Marlon and I were both nervous thinking, "What do people like us say to these important people?"   I thought they were going to think we were a joke and a bunch of low lives, but to my surprise they were open minded.  Marlon starts telling his story and he immediately breaks down crying and his emotions were felt throughout the board room.  Marlon and I fumbled our way through the story and how we needed help to get him prosthetic feet.  They told us they would think about it and get back with us at a later time.  Two weeks later, the hospital called Marlon and I and told us to meet with them again.  In that third meeting they told us that they would do it, they would get him prosthetic feet.  They told us that it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and he would have to be sent away for rehabilitation which would cost even more money.  They explained to us that there would be many trying moments and pain throughout his rehabilitation.  They also told us that if they invest in him and pay for it, he better go all the way through with it.  Marlon said he would do anything if they give him a chance and he started crying.  Well Marlon went away, and he came back with feet.

The agency was shocked to see him walking into the agency instead of wheeled in by a wheelchair.  Marlon had gone from being the most hated client there, to the most loved client; he went from being full of hatred to full of hope and love.  I was a little overwhelmed because I was getting a lot of calls and attention from others in the agency.  They wanted to know how I turned this hateful, addicted, disabled man into a loving, employed person.  I even had his therapist who had worked with him for 12 years prior to me reach out to me.  She asked me, "What book or method did you use to heal him? Where did you get your degree?"  I told her I have no degree and no methods, I simply used love.  She left the conversation dumfounded as if I had just spoken to her in another language.  The answer was easy, I simply did not give up on Marlon because I loved him and he needed someone’s love.  Marlon and I eventually parted ways and I went on to the next case, but we would meet again.

I had lost touch with him for over 10 years.  Now, New York is a big place with millions of people, but I happened to bump into him with while I was with my daughter.  He came up to me and said, "You don’t remember me?"  I didn’t remember him, but he said "I'm Marlon, I'm the one you helped."  He gave me a great big hug and he told my daughter I was a good guy and that everyone had given up on him, but I kept believing in him even when I  lost belief in himself.  He ranted for a few minutes to my daughter about how mean he was to me, but I stood by his side. The real victory is not mine, the real victory is Marlon's.  He had gone from being homeless, on drugs, with no feet, no job, to a man who can walk on his own two feet with a family and a career!  My hope by sharing this story is that you the reader you the world that you can help others without the titles, education, certifications, and money.  You can make a positive difference in someone's life with unconditional love!


kouros123's picture

An act of kindness goes a long way.
Joe Hausch's picture

Marlon is a very lucky man to have met you. Love is miraculous. You certainly love what you do and have a passion - and a gift that is larger than any degree that I know of as far as I'm concerned. And I really enjoyed your story, it was well written and I couldn't stop once I started. Thanks for sharing your brilliance! Very inspirational.
Ms. L A. Davis's picture

This was a beautiful story, you were long suffering and patient. I do not have that kind of patience. You stuck it out, understanding that the root of this mans pain was from the cruelty of his mother. I understand that feeling; if mom does not love me, who else in the world will? Kindness has a range of infinity just like hate does; because of the kindness you gave to this one person, he was able to love so many more. You are an incredible human being that went far above and beyond what anyone else would have dared. I hope that there are many more of you in this world and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to read your incredible story. Thank you!