Tony. New York City. 10.7.18

I am an empath. It took me until I was about 29 to be able to give a name to something I had always just assumed was a defective personality trait. I would often explain it as “feeling too much” or “feeling differently than others.” If I meet someone that I click with, I get attached easily and if someone I am close to (even just in proximity) is having a rough go of it, I feel their distress and am overwhelmed with a certain heaviness. The other side of that is that I am also capable of elation at the smallest of successes and embody the positivity of others when it is presented in front of me.

Surprisingly (and fortunate for the sake of my sensitive heart), thru our travels with Project Humanize, I find myself on the side of elation and positivity more often than I do on the side of despair. While most would assume it to be the other way around, most folks (unfortunately) haven’t met a person like Tony.

Tony (39) and his wife moved to New Jersey from North Carolina and immediately became victims of the cost-of-living. Not letting the sticker shock set them back, Tony and his wife turned to Craigslist for a place and roommates – both of which they found, but as you have already probably gathered, it didn’t work out in their favor. The couple they shared the apartment with were both volatile and irresponsible. Their knockdown drag-out fights would often result in Tony having to leave his job to settle the disagreement. In time Tony’s employer had had enough and let Tony go. Subsequently, the two roommates went their separate ways, neither of which stayed in the apartment. With just Tony’s wife working, they were unable to afford the rent and now spend their days on the streets on NYC and their nights at a Church in Harlem.

I know. It’s not a happy ending to the story, so how could I – as an empath – NOT be crawled up in a ball, crying? That’s simple…if you bumped into Tony on the street and he wasn’t holding a cardboard sign, you would have absolutely no idea he was homeless. Tony does not let his current situation define him and he pleads that others take note. He was able to educate us on organizations that we had no idea existed in aiding the homeless of NYC and urges those who find themselves in a similar situation to take advantage of these people and places. More importantly, however, Tony is LOOKING FORWARD. He has a plan. As a man with 17 years of culinary experience and a strong affection for southern cooking (cheddar biscuits, especially), he hopes to one day own a food truck or a restaurant; a dream that he will be one step closer to achieving the moment he begins culinary training that is provided by a local organization. And with housing thru Breaking Ground in his sights, he is “positive that it will all work out.”

And you know what, so are we; because a man like Tony, so full of exuberance, positivity, and passion will not let this world break him.

So…with that, I will leave you with some advice from our new friend: "Don't be negative about anything. Be positive about everything. If you want something, go get it!"

Thank you for being you, Tony. You have inspired us more than you will ever know.