July 14th would be a day I never forgot. The crash happened just hours after the family celebrated Jaxx's kindergarten graduation.
I woke up around 3 in the morning because my phone had been ringing nonstop.
Everyone knows back to back calls at that time of night meant something bad had happened.
"Troy, omg!, Troy"
My sister Vangie was on the phone crying.
"Troy, Kapri drove off the side of Interstate 15 up by Canyon Road. Jaxx is dead Troy. He was thrown from the car and the paramedics pronounced him dead on arrival."
I dropped the phone. I felt like I was hit over the head by a sledgehammer and broken into a thousand pieces. Ravaged, torn, bloody pieces. I remember sliding down off my bed onto the floor. A silent cry stuck in my throat.
Kapri was my baby mama. We used to kick it a few years back. When she got pregnant with Jaxx things were cool for a while at first, but I stopped messing with her because Kapri liked to party and drink too much for me.
Kapri had a .167 blood-alcohol level when she was checked after the crash. She also had cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines found in her blood.
My little man gone just like that. Sweet, loving, baby boy with a dimple in his left cheek when he smiled just like me. Gone. Jaxx was my sidekick. We were always together. He called me big bro and I called him lil bro. We had a love and a bond so strong.
I was hurt and angry. Oh, how I despised God. How could He take my innocent baby and let his burnout of a mama live.
I was also eaten up with guilt. Jaxx had wanted to go home with me from the party, but I had worked two doubles in order to have extra money for his graduation clothes and gifts. I was beat and didn't have the energy to watch him well or keep him entertained like I usually do.
The day of his funeral, I broke completely down. When they started lowering the casket in the ground I couldn't breath. I had a panic attack and started hyperventilating. My mama held me and rocked me until I could get my breath back.
For about 8 months I was in bad shape. I didn't talk to nobody, didn't go back to work, didn't clean my apartment, lost mad weight because I wasn't eating. All I did was look at pictures of my little man, watch videos of him on my phone, and play Call of Duty-Black Ops.
All the torn pieces of me barely had a shallow heartbeat and I was helpless to pull all the pieces back together. I knew I needed help when I started thinking about buying a gun and eating a bullet to make all the pain go away permanently.
I called a helpline and got set up with therapy sessions. Eventually, slowly I started putting my life back together while I worked through my pain and guilt. I was semi-functional, but Jaxx's death changed me. I was lost.
My best friend Colby was there for me. He's a real one. He regularly called me and dropped by my apartment. He brought me food and small care packages. He even sat with me without talking; just being there next to me when I need it.
One day he told me about Meridian. It was a soup kitchen the next town over. He suggested I volunteer there to get me out of the house more.
3 years later.....
"Troy, what's up. What's good?"
"You got it Mr. Humphry it's all about you."
"Alright, now. Can you tell Camilla she's the love of my life and I can't wait forever. I'm getting old."
I laugh and say, "Sure thing Mr. H"
I walk through to the kitchen and pull on an apron, a hair net, and some gloves.
Carson, Rose, Camilla, Fareed, and Art are already at their stations. We all greet each other.
I've been volunteering at Meridian Soup Kitchen for 2 1/2 years now. It took Colby a few tries to convince me to come here. Finally, I agreed. It's the best thing I could have ever done. I can honestly say coming here improved my quality of life.
I work side by side with other volunteers from the community. Some are retired law enforcement, some are people who just want to give back. Some are here because of court-mandated community service, and some are here because they’re part of Meridian's Restart program. They work in the dining hall to gain work experience as a part of their road to getting off the streets.
I serve meals and assist in the kitchen on Thursday and Friday evenings, then again on Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.
I help serve coffee/tea and dessert. I serve food from the steam table. I buss and wipe the tables in the dining room clean in between guests. I make sure everyone takes a ticket to get served.
I make the rounds to all the tables offering extra napkins, refilling water pitchers, offering water cups. On Saturdays I help with food prep mostly. Shucking corn, peel potatoes, cut onions, wash vegetables etc.
I do anything and whatever needed to ensure a hot, healthy meal is served to the people in the community who need it.
The best part though, is talking with the guest. I've met the most amazing people here. People from all walks of life come to Meridian's.
Rusty is from Auckland, New Zealand. He's been in and out of prison for common assault, offensive weapons and stealing cars. He also and has had trouble with drugs and alcohol, but he’s been clean now for 12 years. He is a talented artist and woodcarver. Rusty is here every day.
Kit has just turned 50. Kit shows up sporadically. Kit’s father was a fisherman and a boat builder. When Kit was younger, he wanted to be just like his dad. He was except it was the bad stuff. Kit's father was a bad alcoholic and Kit picked up the habit too.
Kit sobered up after a 6 year stint in prison, but his experience there was traumatic. He told me twelve people committed suicide while he was locked up; some of them were his friends. He's squatting in a vacant garage over on Rodwell Crt. He says he feels safe there.
Laney has been living on the streets of Wellington for two years. Like some other soup kitchen guests, she spends her days drinking and doing the circuit of the social agencies which help the poor and homeless.
Laney recently completed a five-week residential detox program, without touching a drop of alcohol, but within the first hour after completing the program she had a drink in hand.
When I asked her why, she said, ‘I prefer the foggy haze of being drunk to the stark reality of life when I'm sober. When I drink, I have nothing to worry about.' She comes to Meridian's 4 to 5 times a week.
Noah is my favorite. When I first started volunteering here Noah never smiled. He would just sit and stare at people after he ate his meal.
One busy evening, Lawson, another volunteer asked me to grab two extra to-go bags. Sometimes people wanted to eat in the comfort of their own familiar space.
I grabbed the bags and gave them to Lawson.
"Hey man, do me a favor and bring them over to Noah?"
"Sure, no problem."
"Hello Noah. Lawson sent me over with two bags for you. I put some extra napkins in for you too."
"Thank you," he said in a low soft voice.
I was turning to go when he gently put his hand on my arm, turning me back toward him.
“I just,” he started, “I just wanted to tell you something.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
It’s just…” he paused. He looked down at his hands before looking back up at me with his large, dark eyes..“I don’t smile at all, because, see I got a lot of sadness inside. So I don’t ever smile,” he continued slowly.
"And when you started coming here I felt the sadness inside if you too." My heart dipped but I stayed cool.
" I want to thank you, because you made me smile today. I didn't smile for so long I think I forgot how to. But I watch you and everyday I see you smiling even with your sadness.
I told myself if this guy can smile day after day even though he's sad, so can I. So because of you I smiled today. I don’t remember the last time that happened."
Noah wasn’t smiling now when he told me this touching note of thanks. Nor did I see him smile earlier, but, he said it had happened and that made me happy.
We chatted a little more about our stories, about sadness; then someone from another table was calling for napkins, and I had to go. Noah got up, took his bags and left. As he was walking through the door to go outside, he looked back.
"Bye Noah,” I called from across the room, waving as I handed a napkin to another guest.
I smiled warmly; touched by this man’s sad, grateful, words and story. He waved back and smiled.
I’m always humbled by small moments, made of nothing but a few minutes of real life shared in a dining hall, on the street, in a park. I’m awed by the power of a smile. I’m awed by the way my heart is changed by the people who are willing and brave enough to share their stories with me.
One way the many broken pieces of myself came back together to form a whole, healthy me was through serving others. It's helped fill the empty space left by Jaxx's death. I know that I am providing a service to people in need, and not just living for myself. It's helped me be a lot happier in the rest of my life. I'm more energized these days and genuinely feeling good.
When I started volunteering here helping people I noticed the empty feeling began to fade more and more. It started becoming an outline instead of a space that filled me. I found myself smiling and feeling happier.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen teaches you to drop your prejudices and stereotypes. Instead, you learn to embrace people as they are and understand where they are coming from. You sympathize with their sorrows and share in their victories because you see that they are human just like you
Outside of the soup kitchen; I meditate and practice gratitude. When I meditate, I turn off all life noise and sit in silence; search for and listen to what is going on inside of me.
When I started practicing gratitude I began to look at life's blessings, to really see them and feel thankful for what life had given me and not focus on what had been taken away.
I enrolled in a local community college. I plan to get a degree in criminal law for my baby boy. I couldn't be his hero and save him that night, nor can I do so for all the countless others who will lose their lives at the hands of people who don't value life, but, I want to bring justice for them. They deserve that.
"Bread truck's here. Hey Carson come help me unload," I call out to Carson.
Passing by Camilla on my way out back, I tell her,
"Camilla Mr Humphry told me to tell you you are the love of his life, but he can't wait forever and that he's getting old."
"Tell Mr Humphry to hush his fresh talk. He knows I'm young enough to be his granddaughter." She says as she laughs.
When Camilla smiles the corners of her eyes crinkle up and the dimple in her right cheek shows. I think I may ask her out one day.
Since I started volunteering here at Meridian's I have made new friends. I've formed connections with like-minded people who share my views and interests in helping others out.
Knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life is enough to lift your soul.
I stopped being angry at God and realized He always had a plan, a purpose for me. When you understand that the work you’re doing is much more than just cooking or serving food; that you are changing a life; it's something that is empowering and humbling at the same time.
Even though I dearly miss my little man each and every day I now understand that life is for me, not against me. All of us are awarded our own joys and sorrows. We should appreciate and cherish them all while we can.