By: David Stewart
About a year ago, I met a man named Orlando. He was quite the happy character and started telling me stories of his past life. I suppose we all do it, we introduce ourselves, tell where we are from, start telling things we have accomplished or places we gone. Orlando told his story with such happiness, a confidence, and as I listened, I started to understand why…he was proud of his past life. He was a former Marine, lived in places all over the world, was a former professional boxer who had met and got advice from Muhammad Ali! Orlando was also a professional flyweight boxing champion during a season of his life. He told a story about his first professional fight, he stated, “I got knocked out in the first round”. I then thought Orlando was an overcomer, to go from a first round, first fight knockout to a boxing title holder, he had to have a determined spirit and will to succeed. I liked Orlando from the first time we met.
I got to see Orlando quite frequently after our first introduction, I still get to see him a lot, but I am hoping that will change soon. It seemed the more I got to know him, the more I asked questions, the more I found myself wishing he were not here. We still have fun talking and occasionally hanging out together, its just different now, but let me tell you why. Sometimes, curiosity can get the best of me and after lots of discussions with Orlando he always seemed quite about family stuff. I knew he was once a boxing champion, so I decided to look up my old friend on the infamous google search. I saw his boxing stats and photos, further investigating I saw an interview he had online, and I saw comments about family telling a story of heartache and love. People were searching for Orlando, people called a daughter, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, they all wondered where he was. You may be thinking, how could Orlando not respond to this, it is simple, Orlando did not know. Orlando has been homeless for many years!
I decided to pursue this a little further and that led me down a social media outreach that had me trying to connect with someone, anyone that knew my friend. A few days go by and just like the movie, “You’ve Got mail”, I got a message. I got a response back from a niece in Florida, we started talking and she began to fill in the gaps of my friend here in Hawaii. Everything Orlando had told me was true and the things he did not tell me were incredible. After his boxing career was over and he lost the title, his life took some punches that he could not recover from. I will not go into all his personal life stories, but they all led to him leaving where he was from. They also led to him leaving all his boxing money and assets to his family, in hopes they could experience successes of their own. Life can seem like a fight sometimes and enough bad decisions, heart breaks and painful experiences can make people throw in the towel and decide a loss is better than a win.
Twenty years have come and gone for Orlando, and they have not been as grand as the twenty years prior. The great news is his family has thrived! His nieces and nephews are lawyers, policemen, and nurses all over the world. His daughter is thriving in her career, his brothers and sisters are living in homes paid for by Orlando, all his family are doing well and scattered all over the world. Orlando had no idea any of that had ever happened, I decided it was time he did. The conversations between his niece and I continued, and she helped me connect with other family members from other states and countries. We decided to try and do a zoom call and scheduled one around all the time zones of his family. My job was getting Orlando connected on my laptop and explain to him what a zoom call was! Imagine not seeing or talking to your family for twenty years, now they are looking and talking to you on a computer screen. It sounds almost unreal that life could take those kind of twist and turns for someone that would cause that kind of scenario, but it did, and Orlando lived it.
So, what happened? Orlando and his family did have that zoom call; in fact, we are having a third one in a few weeks. The moment was priceless! Lots of tears, lots of rejoicing and the family is trying to make plans to get Orlando to a state with family where he can call… home. There are logistics still left to do, Orlando is homeless, which means there are still obstacles to get through. The good news is we are a lot closer today than he has been for twenty years. Hawaii has a homeless problem, but what is interesting is when we take the time to hear the problems of the homeless. I am reminded of a scripture in the Bible when I think of Orlando and his life.
A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren;
ill-gotten wealth ends up with good people. Proverbs 13:22 (The Message)
Based on this scripture and from based on my experiences and time with Orlando, its fair to say, Orlando is a good man who passed on a good life. I just wish my friend were not here, I hope I can help see to it …. that he will not be! The fight continues, the champ may be down, but we have not heard a bell yet! A good fighter, after a hard blow, can always find his balance and go the distance. I am hoping the distance for Orlando this time, will eventually…. lead him Home!