A story I’ve been hesitant to discuss, but you will want to read until the end.
Between 2015 and 2017 my life collapsed in on itself upon the foundation of materialism it was built. My spiritual and emotional baggage had a hole in it so vast that nothing could be placed into it without it falling through the bottom only to be left on the sidewalk. Lost and depraved with no sense of sanity, I decided I needed to leave. I loaded up my brand new ATV which didn’t make me happy, in the new trailer which didn’t make me happy, and attached it to the Jeep with the eleven thousand dollar lift kit on it which did not make me happy. I set off to meet new people that I hadn’t met before, a couple of them through Facebook who I became friends with over time, as well as old friends and family I hadn’t seen in a while. My journey took me from North Tonawanda, NY all the way to Carrollton, GA.
I have always found incredible peace in driving long distances, specifically a remarkable peace in driving through both of the Virginia’s. There is very little in the world which compares to the sun as it peers over the vast mountainous terrain, filled with glistened dew and trees teeming with every shade of green. The sky illuminates colors which seem only the mountains could assist in producing as they compliment each other like a work of art. I always felt connected to the “grander scheme” of things as I passed through both Virginia's.
I left my home at such a time as to be able to see the sunrise over Virginia, sometime in the middle of the night. As the sun rose and kept rising, I recognized I needed to pull over to get gas within the hour. The time was somewhere between 8 & 9 in the morning on August 1st, 2017 when I pulled into a rag tag gas station in southern Virginia. In my front seat, meal prepped containers to keep me at least somewhat disciplined from purchasing piles of fast food on my drive, it didn’t stop me from consuming unbelievable amounts of coffee though. I went inside to grab a cup while the pump filled my vehicle by locking the handle in place and noticed a homeless man walking up to my vehicle and checking out the unique front end I had installed on it which included a winch. I remember thinking “here we go” as I walked back to my vehicle to finish pumping.
I was expecting, upon arrival back to my vehicle, to be inundated with questions for money, some type of crazy man conversation, or being heckled for change, but what I ended up receiving was a sense of divinity, the exact kind I was looking for on my trip to reclaim myself and clear my thoughts. The man first began his conversation with me by complimenting my Jeep and asking me about my additions, I told him about some of the stuff I had done and he took a radical departure. He asked me, leaning up against the pump which by this time I was shaking off the last drops of gas and hanging back up, If I believed in God. I remember rolling my eyes and leaning up against the door of my vehicle so I had an “out” just in case it became weird, I reluctantly said yes even though I still was unsure whether I did or not during these dark days. He said to me “You should, you have a lot going for you, a lot of good things are coming, everything is going to be OK for you, you have nothing to worry about”.
I am unsure why my immediate reaction was to blow off the density of what was just said to me, but I imagined it coming from the perspective of a bible thumping homeless man who thought earth was doomed and just decided to thank him rather than process the information using higher conscious. His voice emitted a level of peace which ended up keeping me interested for well over 5 minutes, he talked calm and coherent, he used words which I often used, he spoke of government, philosophy and theology. “Who the hell was this man before he became homeless”, I remember thinking to myself during the later part of our conversation. He asked me what my thoughts were on the current state of government, something which those who know me, know to avoid. As I gave him a passionate answer which included my belief that we have strayed from our principal ideals which make us the best nation to live in, he said that many have agreed with me in government who he has “heard behind closed doors” regarding the matter. He said on many occasions he had the opportunity to hear the prayers of our nation and its leaders and admitted that although some are not in favor of our founding ideals, that we will be OK and all will be sorted out over time and with faith. At one point during the talk he mentioned the importance of the Declaration of Independence, its roll in being free peoples and why it still matters, something I have tattooed on me and didn’t even mention as I was entranced by his incredible knowledge.
As our conversation wrapped up he asked me where I was headed and I told him “my first stop is in North Carolina”, he said something along the lines of “get there safely now, you have a lot going for you, everything is going to be OK, can I pray for you?” I was overcome by our conversation and his contentedness, the peaceful feeling he radiated felt blissfully overwhelming, I agreed to pray. He placed his hand on my shoulder, “Lord, this man is a special man, he is a good man, a nice man, please give him guidance on his journey and allow your peace and safety to flow through him, I ask that you watch over my friend and take good care of him, in his name we pray, amen” I shook his hand and he shook mine, he said something to the affect “I’ll see you in time” and I jumped into my Jeep, peering through my windshield as I watched him make his way around the side of the building and continue back into the space behind the property which was an empty, partially paved space with nothing much around it besides field and empty lots from businesses that may have once existed there. He had only his ragged clothes and torn boots, what I assume was a bible, and a dirty hat on as he made his way.
As I started the engine and pulled off, I made it a couple minutes down the road heading back to the highway trying to process what had just happened, thoughts were racing and I hadn't really digested the conversation which seemed so odd to me, when I realized that there wasn’t one point, not one at all in our conversation, where the man asked me for a single thing. “Why me? why didn’t he go over to someone else pumping gas after we talked?” I felt like he had given me new perspective and that I needed to offer something too. I turned the vehicle around and made my way back to the gas station, I took my meal prepped containers out of the Walmart bag they were in, I put one container loaded with fresh baked chicken and veggies, napkins and a 20 dollar bill inside the bag and made my way back around the building, and then around the other side, and then back where I came from, and then stood there, the man was no where to be found at all, he was just…..gone. I paused and went on my way after waiting a minute or two to see if maybe he would show up, but he did not. I left thinking about this interaction often up until now.
I have attempted to decipher many times in a much more personally reflective way, the conversation which took place that day. I questioned why he spoke only to me, why he spoke as though he knew I was hurting, why he spoke as though he knew I needed that message, how he spoke so colloquially with the way I did and how he hit on topics familiar and passionate to me in such a short time. I questioned what the man meant by saying he has heard the prayers of our nation and its leaders behind closed doors, I questioned the calm ambiance he embodied and his prayer for me. Above all that, I questioned the necessary factors which played into me being in that moment at that moment and how everything in my entire life that has ever happened culminated to making that exact moment in time happen for me. Whether you are religious or not, whether it is mere coincidence to you or a taste of divinity, the message I needed to hear was said and the impact it had on me still brings a sense of peace and wonder to me, these are the facts of the matter which cannot be disputed. I’m not sure what heaven is exactly, but I felt a piece of it that morning for a few minutes at a gas pump in southern Virginia from someone who wanted nothing from me but to reassure me that I was going to be OK, which he was adamant in reminding me. All the pain I was feeling for so long previously seemed to be illuminated in a greater realization which brought me a sense of “everything will work out”. He never asked me what religion I was, only if I believed in God, he never asked me to subscribe to his, my prejudice only assumed he was some kind of crazy Christian man, but his calm demeanor spoke more than he did and showed he could care less what I was. He had a message to deliver to me from the post office of the heavens and it was delivered perfectly on time, with total grace.
Just 6 months after that conversation, I received my first offer to visit a school which was potentially interested in me playing college football for them, something I wanted to do so badly and felt was a necessary part of my personal healing. I had quit my job and trained relentlessly for a chance to play again after the military following injury and disease acquired in Afghanistan on deployment in 2014, which left a great angst and void in my soul. In March of 2018, I signed my letter of intent to play college football and by June I moved out of NY with only what I could fit inside of my Jeep. One year to the day that I shared a conversation with the messenger from heaven, I began my first college football camp. After my first season, I was placed on scholarship and named one of the captain’s of the team, I saved my scholarship funds and was awarded more through an entrepreneurial challenge where I pitched my business idea to the county. The school is a small one surrounded by the beautiful Appalachian mountains, a short drive down the street from where my business will open up this summer, just 25 minutes from the gas station conversation which changed my life.