A Man I Once Knew

May 6, 2011
By , Webster City, IA
I remember a man, the man I knew was very different from the man he first was. He was born into a wealthy family and he grew up having anything he wanted. He was the kid in school that everyone hated yet the one that everyone loved at the same time. He had soft, silky brown hair that flowed to his ears, he was tall and thin yet very muscular; this man played football, basketball, soccer and baseball and he still participated in musical activities like band and choir. I think of him as the kid who was handsome and good at whatever he did, he was….perfect. He was a scholar who received a full ride to the college of his dreams.

He decided to attend the Newschool of Architecture + Design, located right in his home town of San Diego. He chose that school because his dream was to become a contemporary architect who designed top of the line buildings. While he was in college he received a phone call and he learned that his parents’ were killed in a car crash. He was devastated, he missed a lot of school planning and attending his parents’ funeral; because he was absent from so much school he lost his scholarships. On top of that, it was decided after many days of arguing that all of his parents’ money would be given to his sister. So there was this broken man who’s a sophomore in college, he lost his scholarships and he didn’t get any of his parents’ money after they died and he now had thousands of dollars in debt.

This man that I knew was thirty years old by the time he managed to graduate from college; he had also landed himself a very nice, well paying job as a receptionist in a law office in downtown San Diego. My friend, the man, was informed from his girlfriend that he was going to be a father; he was so excited he just embraced the idea of having a family. He began thinking positively again, he just knew that he would be able to get out of this debt and all of his sorrows would melt away after he had a bundle of joy swaddled in his arms; he was waiting in anticipation for his child to be born. A few months later he received a telephone call and he learned that while his soon-to be child’s mother was walking home from work and she was hit by a drunk driver. She managed to stay alive in intensive care long enough to see the man and tell him that she needs him to take care of their baby if she doesn’t make it; he promised that he would but in his heart he knew that he could not deal with another death like his parents’. Sadly his girlfriend didn’t make it ten minutes after he talked with her. Once again this man’s heart was shattered and he felt like he was at the lowest point in his life however there was a very tiny fragment of hope which came through the living child that was in its mother’s womb. The baby turned out to be a miracle baby; doctors were sure that it wouldn’t live more than a few hours; however the baby just kept kicking. After many months in the hospital the baby was released to the man, whose mouth seemed to curve into a thin smile upon his face when he could finally take the precious bundle of happiness home. Finally, things were looking up; he had a job, a home and a little child whom he adored.

The toddler stumbled and fell with every step, but it was beginning to walk and the child was starting to talk. The man still kept his same job in the hot, smelly, sticky law office, it wasn’t the best job in the world and it wasn’t what the man wanted to do however it was better then no job. One day as the man paced up the stairs to work he realized that his key did not fit in the lock anymore; his job had been moved overseas. The law firm didn’t give any future warning and they didn’t give any benefits to the man, despite what they had done to the desperate father. That was an all-time low for the man; he was depressed, saddened and frustrated. He also felt as if he had let his child’s mother down because the last thing that he said to her was that he would take care of their baby if it lived, the man was in no situation to follow through on that promise because he was jobless, homeless and he stilled owed the bank a ton of money, on top of all this he had a toddler who would scream for food if it wasn’t fed regularly.

Many agonizing months had passed and the dad and toddler spent every night in a different homeless shelter, and spent all of their days in search of a job. The job part was a joke because who was going to hire a man with a scruffy, aged face way past his actual age. Who’s baggy, ratty clothes stolen out of a dumpster reek of b.o. and sweat? He looks as if he hasn’t bathed in weeks and when he smile you see a yellow wall of teeth, that look as if they’re going to fall out any minute. He has a pair of worn boots that have a hole over the toe because the boots are two sizes too small. His long, wild hair goes wherever the wind blows it, and when you look into his coffee-colored eyes you see a deep well of hurt and sadness.

Looking for a job was getting nowhere and the man was stuck in the same routine day after day, until one day when a very nice lady came up to him on the street and offered a shower, a hot meal and a place for the night. The man accepted without hesitation, for he knew that his two year old will be able to experience a full belly for the first time in its life.

After he had scrubbed himself and his child for about an hour, they were squeaky clean and he decided to change and go downstairs. As he walked down the stairs the man smelled delicious wafts of food bubbling on the stove, he made his way into the kitchen. He sat and gorged himself on his first real meal in years. The meal consisted of three exquisite courses; the first was a small leafy salad and a bowl of hot, steamy soup that was as thick as pudding and creamy like caramel. The next course was a roasted chicken that gushed with herbs and broth, the chicken was accompanied by a huge serving of steamed potatoes and carrots. The final course was a rich, chocolaty slice of heaven in a bowl with a generous scoop of ice cream and whipped cream. The meal was a delicious, exquisite meal that filled their bellies completely to the brim and more!

Dinner was over and the man put his child into a soft, cushiony, bed that was already toasty-warm; he then proceeded to head back downstairs to talk with the lady and her husband. He learned that the lady’s husband is a pastor as a local church and that she was a daycare provider. He also learned that they had hearts bigger than the universe and that they were determined to help him, if he attended church every Sunday. He was flabbergasted that those random people would come up to him on the dirty streets of inner-city San Diego and help him in everyway imaginable and all that they wanted was for him to attend a church every Sunday!

That day was their, the father and child’s, third Sunday with this family. That day was a church day so they rose early and put on their Sunday best. During church that day there were some lovely songs that had been sung. During an individual prayer time the man broke out in song; everyone, including himself, was shocked to learn that he could sing. Not only could he sign but he was blessed with the voice of an angel’s. It was flawless, and the range of his vocal chords was magnificent, not to mention his outstanding listening abilities! That discovery was life-changing for the man because it opened his eyes to another job and that job was a music teacher.

Two months later he miraculously found a job in a suburb of San Diego, his child was four now and bouncing off the walls was his child’s favorite thing to do; it was the first day of school for both of them. The child was now in pre-school and happier than ever, the man couldn’t have been happier either for he had a home a family and a job.

His child was five now and they lived in a house, and the man was able to keep his job. The man and the lady’s family became good friends and the man continued to attend church every Sunday. The man was happy and he enjoyed life again. He had another idea one Sunday morning at church, and that was the idea of building a help center that would offer housing, food and job opportunities for homeless families who had no hope left. He began planning and forming his great big dream, in between teaching and being a dad.

Ten years later the man accomplished his dream, he had built a building that could house one hundred families at a time and it offered them three hot meals a day, it also found jobs for the people who came in. The building was an outstanding piece of work; it was built with twenty foot ceilings, nine foot doors and many sky-lights lit up the rooms like fireworks in the night sky. This building was made out of clay bricks that kept the place cool in the summer and warmer in winter. The building was able to be built with donations only and it ran on solar power. What he built was a building that he wished he had had. The man was a hero to many young, starving children in the San Diego community. This was not the only thing that this man did; he also conducted a high school choir. That choir was amazing! When people listened to the choir they could hear all eight-part harmonies clear as day, and the choir’s wall of sound echoed throughout massive performance halls throughout the United States. They won many competitions all because the man had brought back the spirit of fun and excitement. This man had a great impact on his community and he was respected by many families and students.

I remembered all of these memories and stories that I was either told or that I remembered and as I sit at his funeral pondering these memories I sit there and I think to myself that I am proud to have known him. I listen as his child is called up to give a eulogy and I smile when I realize that his child is me.

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