You never know how your actions will touch someone. You can go a lifetime never hearing a thank you, never knowing the impact your actions had on another person’s life. Some times we get blessed, some times we get that rare moment of clarity that reminds us of why we do what we do. I had one of those moments.
Approximately five years ago, shortly after my grandma died, who was my heart, I was in a very bad place mentally. I had fallen into a deep depression; I really didn’t feel like I had a purpose. All the things I had done to help people, me being me had blown up in my face. Just like that, I went from loved to judged.
I drank my problems away.
I didn’t want to face it. I had two very deep encounters during this time. When I was ready to give up, ready to admit that I was wrong for doing what I do, that I was weak an made no difference. In those desperate moments, God sent me two people I had helped, and I didn’t know that I had.
The first was a USMC veteran who had been a customer of mine for several years while I was bartending. He saw me sitting in the bar, sulking, crying in my drink. Definitely not the person he once knew. For whatever reason, he moved down and said “hey, I want to thank you. In my darkest hour, my moments of despair, it was you that got me through. You had no way of knowing that on more than one occasion you, your words saved my life. For that, I will ever owe you and forever be thankful.” I could hear his sincerity but I was too far lost to really hear him. I told him thank you, gave him a half-cocked smile and went back to my pity party.
A few days later I get a friend request from a black pastor in New Orleans. New Orleans was a city I once lived in and loved, it was a city that also betrayed me. When I left, I kept contact with no one. This man and I had no mutual friends. I rolled my eyes thinking it was someone trying to prey on me, but the name was familiar, I could not place it. So, I accept the request and completely forget it ever came through.
A few days later I get a private message from this same person.
I had thought and thought about how I knew this person. I ask, “Didn’t we used to work together” He responded, “How could you forget me, friend? Yes, and we hung out and you introduced me to Goldshloger. We worked at the Pet Superstore.
“That’s what I thought MFING Ashley aka Black, OMG it’s been decades how are you?”
We got to catching up on the years that had gone by and where we were today. It was nice to hear from an old friend, but he lived a very different life than I did. I was never one to judge. He told me he was married, had two beautiful kids, he was a licensed electrician and a minister for his community, literally living his best life but he couldn’t have done it without me.
Many years earlier Ashley, his girlfriend Kim and I worked in Gretna, LA at a store called Pet Superstore. He was a little older than me. My would-be husband had an excellent job working at the boatyards as a marine electrician. For some reason, the four of us hit it off.
We didn’t know anyone and my would-be husband liked his pot, Ashley sold pot (and more but I didn’t know that at the time) Ashley was born and raised in the Whitney projects in New Orleans, selling drugs is all he knew. He worked our shitty little job as a cover but his real money was in the game.
I was 17 and really had no idea what he did. The Pet Store announced it was closing, we were all losing our jobs. I felt bad for Ashley, not knowing he had other income and begged my would-be husband’s bosses to give him a job. I really don’t remember why, but we were out of state workers so we all lived in the same apartments and were very close.
They told me they would and I assumed that would be the end of it. I didn’t know that behind my back things were going on.
Ashley got a job on the yard as a helper, hot hard work but better money. True to his nature he was still selling, trying to make that money. Apparently one night they raided his projects, he was holding. He prayed and prayed hard. He found a place to dump his quantity, which the cops didn’t find but they arrested him anyway.
That was an awakening for him.
He managed to escape prison time. He invested himself in becoming an electrician, which he did.
He turned to his church and found God, which he did. Not only did he find God but to this day he is a minister working with the troubled youth in his community, sharing his stories and changing lives.
He wanted me to know, had it not been for me stepping out of my way to help get him in the direction of a career he would probably never have the strength to leave the life he knew. He never had someone just give him a chance and not judge him, especially some naïve white kid from a peninsula.
He had no idea how much him telling me that meant, in those moments.
He had no idea how down I was on myself but for some reason he was compelled to reach out to me and tell me how important I was, how special I was and how much I mattered and encourage me to stay true to me, never stop and don’t let the haters stand in my way because I make a difference no matter how small my acts of kindness seem they can change the world.
He has changed so many lives because I helped change his.
I cried so hard, but I knew that some divine being was pushing this in place. He had no way of knowing what I was going through or how much I needed to hear his words.
We don’t see many things the same but our bond will forever be sealed. Don’t ever give up on yourself, don’t let those who want to push you down, keep you down. Love is color blind