Charles lost a person…twice. He lost 105 pounds, or the weight of a small person. He also lost a best friend. He lost his freedom, sleep at night, the right to vote, and the fellowship of a church. But now Charles is in Charge, and he is at peace. He is without a doubt, the most honest man I’ve met in awhile, perhaps in my entire journey. He may have lost much, but he has found much more.

“Most people won’t acknowledge it down here, and they certainly won’t talk about it,” he said.  “Blacks and whites “aren’t supposed” to be friends, but my best friend was black. We had been friends since we was little.” Then Charles laid it on me, “He was killed at my house…they were trying to kill me. They shot him in the head.” Charles in another life was a drug dealer and a pimp complete with prostitutes. When a certain deal went sour, the offended party came looking for Charles who was in the backyard of his home, the assailants found his best friend inside…and killed him.

Charles would rather have it that he took the bullet, but you cannot change what is done, he merely must live with it. He now tries to live his life in vigilance to see that others escape a similar fate.

Charles has spent his time in jail as well, but he also spent time “reforming” and became the assistant pastor at a church. To him the two have a lot of similarities. There are gangs in each that demand allegiance despite one’s convictions, and he says that both rely on similar tactics to keep one in fear and remove your choice and free will in fear of reprisal and being ostracized.

The church where he worked was a very affluent church and had the ability to do a great many things to help others. One sunday, Charles was preaching and suggested that they use the church van and the affluence of the body to care for, clothe, accommodate, and help the pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and the poor who really needed love and their help. After all he said, “Isn’t that what Jesus asked us to do?” He proposed bringing them to church, housing them, and feeding them…and instead of preaching at them, allowing the love of the congregation to be a witness rather than words.

According to Charles, the following sunday, the head pastor stood and said, “Last week you heard one of our church propose to have prostitutes, drug dealers, and the poor sitting amongst us here at church. Well, I ask you congregation, how many of you good women would want prostitutes in here to sit next to your good men, and how many of you mothers would want drug dealers to sit next to your children? I say that we reject this proposal.” And, they voted no.

With that, Charles stood, took his daughter and left the church and has never returned.

Charles didn’t stop being the love though in his community though. He, his wife, and his two kids take care of all those whom come into their path. He has started and managed several companies, and seeks to employ and pay a good wage to all he can. Charles still works with the homeless, the poor, and the destitute. He has improved himself as well and lost over 100 lbs., walks 8-12 miles a morning, and plays with being a vegetarian. But that is hard in the south.

I thanked Charles for sharing all he had with me, and I asked him if there was anything that he didn’t want me to share in my writing. “No,” he said, “You can write about it all. I can tell you have the right focus. Some people in the church used to ‘Love’ to here me give a testimony. They lived vicariously through my experiences. They wanted to hear how “bad” I was. They wanted to hear all the sordid details of previous life. However, whenever I wanted to talk about what I’m doing know to improve the lives of others and how we as a church could accomplish things in our community like they did in the book of Acts…their ears turned to stone.”

I asked Charles to summarize all that he has learned and experienced in life. I asked him if there was one thing that he felt would put it all in perspective, and perhaps what all his experiences have taught him? He stated simply, “This is it. Life is short. Be present. Love everyone you can while you can. It can be over in a blink. Don’t waste another minute.”

Truly…Be the love in the world.

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