Over the last decade my husband and I have lived in five different states. Schooling and jobs had made us somewhat nomadic. Throughout those moves we have developed dozens of friendships. I feel like we have gathered sunshine from these friends as they have opened their hearts and lives to us. I am a better person because of their love and fellowship. I imagine that I will share many of these interactions with you over time, but today I want to tell you about our dear friend, Antonio Burton.
One afternoon last fall I was scrolling through my husband’s email, probably checking the status of an Amazon order, when I saw an email subject “ride needed to church.”
Let me back up, we were living in Chicago at the time and attended church on the south side, 40 blocks south of our apartment. We had spent two years taking public transit to and from church (an hour each way) and when we acquired a vehicle, just before our third child was born, I promised myself I’d give rides whenever I could.
So, I came across this email and saw that the person who needed a ride was on our way, I replied that we could pick him up; that’s how we met Tony.
One afternoon Tony stopped into a corner store. While he was in the store an armed robbery occurred during which the men severely beat Tony in the head. After spending six months in the hospital he was released to a rehabilitation center, which is where he was staying the day we picked him up for church.
We knew nothing about Tony, except his name. I ran in to get him while my husband and kids waited in the van. I signed in and went up to his room, which was empty. So, I ran back downstairs and told my husband he wasn’t there and we headed out. Just then we got a call from our Bishop, “Tony just called me, he’s in his room now, he just missed you.” “We’ll turn around,” I said
During the eight months we took Tony to and from church I never heard him complain about his circumstances. Instead, he often explained how blessed he was that God had saved his life. He took every opportunity to share with others God’s goodness and love. Often his wife Audrey would join us, waking before dawn and navigating Chicago’s south side on public transit so they could attend church together. This was no small task for Audrey, as she has suffered two strokes and endures physical challenges from them.
Tony was told he’d never walk or talk again. He can do both. He lives at home with Audrey now and with the help of in-home aids and physical therapists he continues to make progress. Last time I saw them Tony was walking with a walker and learned he no longer uses his wheelchair.
We read in the scriptures of a time when Christ and his disciples were traveling on a boat,
We are all fighting battles and navigating trials. It might not be the physical tragedy Tony and Audrey have suffered, but we are all experiencing our own wind and rain. Let us remember to direct our fear to the Lord in faith, to awaken Christ in our lives and seek the peace and calm that only He can deliver.
As we interact with others, let us remember that they too are experiencing storms, and let’s scatter sunshine.
Peace and Love,