An Easter Story
Many years ago while working for the national office of the Young Christian Workers in a very poor area in Chicago, a young man came to our door seeking some help. I’ll call him Tony. Tony explained that he was diabetic and asked if we could keep his insulin and needle in our refrigerator, as he was living on streets along Skid Row nearby our office. He also asked for a few dollars to possibly rent a room for a few nights in the area. Tony looked awful. He had sores all over him, and his stomach stood out abnormally on his little frame.
We were not a social service agency, and we were quite poor ourselves financially. But I personally tried to help Tony as best I could, including setting him up for some job interviews. Unfortunately, Tony somehow never made it to the interviews. It was a vicious circle. I’d give Tony a few dollars to tide him over, and I’d arrange another job interview. And once again, he wouldn’t show up for the interview. I then did a very difficult thing. I told young Tony not to contact me anymore because our relationship didn’t make any sense. I told him I had done my best to help him, but we were not getting anywhere. I felt awful, but I wasn’t a social worker, and I didn’t know what else to do.
Some months passed without Tony contacting me for help. Then one night, he showed up at our residence and asked for me. He was as excited and jovial as I had ever seen him. He had secured a job in the mail room at Mercy Home for Boys (now Boys and Girls) through the goodness of its founder, Msgr. Kelly. He couldn’t wait to show me all of his check stubs as evidence. I was thrilled for him, of course.
In time, Tony moved into an apartment with me and a couple of my bachelor friends, and I learned a great deal more about him. His father was in the Reed Zone Mental Health Center literally vegetating his life away. He was totally non-verbal when we initially visited him. His mother was dead. His younger brother lived downstate in a facility for the mentally challenged. His older brother, as best I can recall, was incarcerated somewhere.
Tony became like our younger brother and was very happy. He attended daily Mass at our local parish, he was involved in many activities, and he began to initiate plans to help his father and younger brother. Of course, I was always included in his plans! He’d say: “Frank, we’ve got to do something about my father; we can’t just let him sit his life away in silence in that facility.”
Through God’s help, and little Tony’s insistence, his father was subsequently placed in a community facility in the Uptown area. The last time I saw him was many years ago, when he visited my office, which was also located in Uptown. He appeared very happy, was very verbal, and was selling various items he had in a kind of shopping bag. I have no idea where he secured the items he was selling. Tony’s younger brother, who was living downstate in a facility for the mentally challenged, with Tony’s help, eventually secured long-term employment and is married and living downstate. We are still in touch.
Tony subsequently also moved into the Uptown area, where there were many social service agencies he could contact when he, too, needed assistance. He became married to a mentally challenged woman, and they lived in a nice apartment in that area. One of his favorite things was to visit alleys in the area and find things he could gift to others. Other people’s garbage became his treasures. Before he died of cancer a few years ago, he gave me an item he had found in one of his alleys. It was a nice little lighted alter in need of a little TLC. I subsequently gave it to his younger brother.
Easter is of course all about the Resurrection of Jesus. But sometimes I think we don’t see the little (and big) resurrections that happen all around us in our daily lives. I am particularly reminded of this when I think of my old friend Tony and his father and younger brother. I especially think of them every Easter. May you experience many resurrections in your life. Happy Easter.