What was life like growing up? I started in Kansas City with my mother. I knew who my father was but I never saw him, he wasn’t around. I have one brother and one sister, I’m the middle child. There were a lot of hardships growing up, things happened that I didn’t understand. We were constantly moving and my mom worked in fast food. There wasn’t a lot of money or stability and we went without a lot because we were always on the move. We stayed in a lot of small Missouri towns, then we ended up in Colorado. Of course there were some joys along the way, I loved playing basketball and reading, especially history. I was the only one in my family who graduated from high school and I’m proud of that. I enjoyed learning and still do, I like to think and reflect. I was a troubled kid though and I was very angry! I wasn’t gonna have no-one pick on me and I got into a lot of fights. My attitude was, “you come up on me, I ain’t backing down! We’re gonna rumble!” I was a loner. I kept people at a distance, I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. We were always moving anyway, so I didn’t really understand how to make friends.

What did you do after high school? I went to college for a while but I left when my Grandmother died. Then I followed in my mom’s footsteps and went into fast food. I’ve worked as a cleaner and I’ve done maintenance work. Since I moved back to Kansas City fifteen years ago I’ve worked mostly in fast food. I work as a volunteer football coach too and really enjoy that, it’s a place to influence young people.

Have you had any mentors in your life? I’m guessing you mean an impact person... that would be my Grandmother. She taught me to pay cash for things and to not be lazy! My Grandmother was a wonderful person, even when she disciplined me. She made it so I learned something from it. Martin Luther King also had a big impact on me. Of course, I never met him, but I read a lot about him. He was a man for justice, and I’m a man for justice. I got to participate in some peaceful demonstrations a few years back. It was a “justice for workers” demonstration. In a small way I felt like I was identifying with the men who walked for justice with Martin Luther King. We wanted a fair wage in the fast food industry, a living wage! I was glad I got to do it. I like to think I helped to make a bit of a difference. It’s an ongoing battle, but things are slowly changing.

Tell me about your path to Reconciliation Services. I had been coming in for help over a period of time and all the staff treated me with a lot of kindness and respect. They made me feel welcome and they remembered my name. There was always someone to talk to and someone to listen to me. I like to read as I said, but I couldn’t afford glasses. Reconciliation Services helped me get a voucher for a pair of reading glasses and I was very grateful for that. It was a slow process but I warmed to the staff and the volunteers and I wanted to be more involved. I came in one day and went up to the lady at the front desk and asked if I could be a volunteer. That started me on the journey of becoming more involved.

What has it been like being a volunteer? So far so good I only started in August. I do a number of things in a couple of different areas. I work in the food pantry on Mondays and clean and mop up on Friday nights after we serve meals to our clients. I look forward to Friday nights. It’s a cool community time. Towards the end of the night I like to get over on the piano and play the keys. Sometimes we have a good old sing along. I’m learning a lot about myself and the staff. I’m trying to understand myself and others and really think about what I observe and what I can learn. Yeah, I guess lot of what I do is watch and learn. I like the way they do things here. I also learn something from the people who come in to Reconciliation Services for help. They’ve all got a story. It’s good to listen, it’s good to give and it’s good to do something beyond myself. I like coaching football for that reason. I feel like I am contributing to the wider community and being useful. I like connecting with people who help each other and want to make this area a better place. The story is not complete, it’s a story in progress. I’m still learning and finding out why I’m here and what I can really offer.

What are your dreams? Oh wow… dreams, now that’s a good question, a really good question! Well, I don’t know if it’s possible—I’m thirty six now and it hasn’t come my way so far but I’d like to get married, have kids, be a dad one day. In life I’d like to leave a legacy. I’d like to be known for how I helped changed the youth of my city through coaching football. I’d like to do more justice work and touch the political scene in some way for the nobodies. I’d like to see some of the barriers in my community come down. Not sure what all that looks like yet, but yeah, these are some of my dreams!

If you had the opportunity to give one piece of advice from what you’ve learned in life, what would it be? Be careful with your choices. The consequences of some choices are irrevocable. We are free to choose but we aren’t free from the consequences of the choices we make.

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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photo credit: Tom Morse-Brown