At first glance, Tom looks like an intimidating guy. And for much of his life, he earned every bit of his reputation. He spent 23 years in prison for attempted murder and, while he was on the inside, he took orders as a “hit man.” The last thing you wanted to do was have a personal meeting with Tom. But that’s not the case today. In fact, despite his tough-guy appearance, Tom is one of the most kind, helpful and compassionate people you’ll ever meet. So how did a once violent and angry man make such a remarkable transformation?
Believe it or not, it started with fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Like so many angry and violent people, Tom was filled with self-hatred and guilt. It started when he was 18 years old. He and his little brother took a trip to the beach in California for some fun in the sun. Tom had too much to drink, there was an accident, and his brother drowned. Tom blamed himself.
“When that happened I didn’t know how to process it. I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I carried around the shame and the guilt and the hatred for years,” Tom remembers. “But I blamed God first... cursed him every day. I told myself, ‘What kind of God would allow that to happen?’”
In the years that followed, the self-loathing and anger built up inside Tom. When life became too much for him to handle, he started drinking, and later turned to methamphetamine
“I was drunk and we were arguing and I beat a guy nearly to death. Thank God they revived him at the hospital. Through medication and therapy he’s normal again today. That was my first experience with violence... there was a lot of evil inside of me.”
Tom carried that evil with him to prison. When he was released, he found himself jobless, homeless and hungry. But during his stay in Tent City, he heard something that promised to help him with at least one of those things.
“A guy told me that there was this place called ‘The Mission’ that gave out hot meals. I asked him where it was and he said, ‘Right next door!’ So I went to get a meal. This wasn’t some dry sandwich, it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes, there was a side of corn – it was delicious! Then I found out afterwards that I could get more than a meal. They offered beds and counseling and a recovery program. I couldn’t believe it!”
Tom checked in, got a bed, and decided to look for a job. But when he left campus, he was hit by a car crossing Washington Street.
“I woke up with a fractured skull, lying in the street, with blood coming out both ears and the back of my head. The guy that shook me awake was saying something but I couldn’t understand him. I realized I was almost deaf.”
After 10 days in intensive care, Tom was released from the hospital. The first thing he did was return to the Mission to begin his road to recovery.
“After the accident I couldn’t hear well which meant I couldn’t talk to anyone, my equilibrium was all messed up too; I couldn’t stand without holding on to a wall. But the Phoenix Rescue Mission got me a hearing aid so that I could hear again. They signed me up for the recovery program and dealt with my drug and alcohol addictions. While I was in recovery I cleaned dishes in the lunch room where, leaning against the sink day after day, I slowly recovered my balance. God has blessed me so much here, I felt like I never wanted to leave this place!”
But best of all, our counselors were able to dig through years and years of emotional trauma and find the root of Tom’s anger issues and help him come to terms with his brother’s drowning once and for all.
“Chaplin Gabe explained to me that I couldn’t go on blaming myself. He showed me how to surrender and give that pain and hatred to God."
"I’ve never been the same since.”
Today, thanks to the love and support of friends like you, Tom is a new man. He’s free from the anger, the guilt, and the addictions that held him in bondage for so many years. With the hatred gone, and his relationship with God repaired, Tom has become one of the kindest, most helpful people you could ever meet. During his recovery, he’s saved up and purchased a car, just got hired as a driver for a trucking company, and is on his way to finding a place to call his own.
Tom is just another example of the power of a meal. Through your partnership, God uses simple things like chicken and potatoes to transform lives. Thank you for the support that turns lives around and gives hope to thousands at our dinner table every year!