Mo Needs A Job

It’s been an amazing past few months for Mo. He’s officially off parole, he’s finally getting some money from the state and his cooking has never been better. He’s in a great mood and his trademark bad temper is rarely seen these days.

Mo Is A Changed Man

At the ripe old age of 56 he’s taking his life a day at a time and it’s an amazing thing to watch and be part of. Sometimes I look at Mo and wonder where the angry, beaten down and desperate guy I first met at the Caltrain station is at these days. I never see the old Mo anymore and I can’t say I miss him.

Mo has been changed from the inside out and although I’ve played a big part in it there’s no doubt in my mind that God has been using me to transform Mo into a completely different person. Through the process I’ve been changed and molded into a different person, too. Our relationship is far from one-sided and as much as I’ve helped him he’s returned it to me and then some.

Mo Has Free Time

Mo is now free to do whatever he wants and there’s no restrictions on his time. This is obviously a good thing and Mo loves having the ability to do whatever he wants when he wants. It’s something many people don’t think much about but having that freedom is important to Mo and allows him to move on with his life.

So what this means is that Mo has plenty of free time but unfortunately he doesn’t have much to do with it.

Mo Needs A Job

The next thing that Mo needs is a J-O-B (see video above for Friday reference). Now that he has all of this free time he needs to find something productive to do with it. Like I said, he’s getting some money from the state each month and he also has a couple of other paying jobs that he does once or twice a week but they’re not always consistent.

Mo either needs a steady job or something else that’s a good use of his time, like volunteering somewhere in the city. The main thing for Mo right now is to stay busy and to start being more of a productive citizen in society so he can add value to the community and also give a sense of value to himself.

He also needs to get involved with something as a way to get out of the environment he’s in day-to-day when he doesn’t have something to do. There’s no doubt that we’re all influenced by the people we’re surrounded by and hanging out with drug dealers, prostitutes an addicts isn’t going to help Mo get to where he needs to be. I think he could potentially volunteer to help these types of people but he doesn’t need to be all mixed up with them all the time.

Mo’s a great worker and he’s ready to get started with something but he’s going to need some help finding it. He’s got a rough past but a bright future so wherever he ends up is going to have to take a little bit of risk bringing him onboard. I don’t think it will be a completely smooth transition for him but like with everything else, he’ll figure it out and will no doubt end up doing a good job for whoever he’s working for.

Any Ideas?

I’m throwing this out to all of you today as a way to help me understand all of my options for Mo right now. I want the best for him but I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I know exactly what he should be doing at this point.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on what Mo could get involved with in San Francisco, please let me know. He could do some manual labor, cleaning or the probably ideal thing would be cooking. He’s an incredible cook and he really enjoys it.

Thanks for your help and Mo appreciates it, too.


Ghetto Grocery Shopping With Mo

Food Co in San Francisco

Whenever I buy food at Safeway and tell Mo how much the food cost me he answers me the same way.

He looks at me like I’m crazy while usually saying something like “You spent how much? I need to take you to the ghetto grocery store. You’re spending too much, Ryan! Those guys at Safeway are bums. THEY’RE BUMS!” (Anyone or anything Mo doesn’t approve of is a bum.) I had never seen or heard about this cheap and apparently ghetto grocery store he liked to tell me about so much but little did I know I was about to experience it for myself.

At the beginning of this month Mo started getting some financial help from the good ol’ state of California. Since he’s officially off parole he’s now eligible for some government assistance which means that he now has some money coming in. It’s only $390 per month but for someone who hasn’t had any type of consistent cash flow for the past four years it’s a pretty big deal. To make sure he doesn’t blow the money on who-knows-what Mo gave me the card he uses to get the cash out and we decide together what the money gets spent on.

It’s no surprise that the main thing Mo wants to use the money for is food and the first place he wanted to spend it was the ghetto grocery store in San Francisco he always tells me about. The store’s called Food Co, it’s on 14th and Folsom and last Sunday we headed straight there after church.

Pulling in I could tell that we weren’t at Safeway anymore. The parking lot was a mad house and I was the only white person within a 100ft. radius. Nothing that I’ve never experienced before but definitely the first time since living in San Francisco.

Once we made it into the store there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between what I saw there and other stores I’ve been in besides the types of people who were shopping there. They had similar food and although it seemed a little more out of control than normal it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before at a Wal-Mart in Indiana.

I followed Mo around as he filled up the cart and we ended up getting a ton of food. Once we had everything we needed we checked out and I could tell that Mo was happy he could pay for it himself. It was a really cool to see him, for the first time, buy his own groceries with his own card. I know it’s government money but there’s still something to be said for buying something on your own, without anyone else’s help.

After filling up four bags of groceries I took a look at the receipt and Mo was right about it being way cheaper than other grocery stores. We spent a little over $75 and at Safeway I’m pretty sure it would of cost me at least $125. Plus, shopping around at Food Co was way more fun and seeing Mo in his element is always entertaining. For instance, we ran into another homeless guy we both knew who ended up stealing a frozen bag of chicken so he could sell it for crack. I was pretty surprised by this but according to Mo it’s just another day at Food Co.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Food Co I went to in San Francisco here’s their page on Yelp that will give you a good idea of what it’s like. The reviews are amazing entertaining, here is one of my favs:

there are a few rules you must follow to go here:

1. Do not go here after dark, 6am is the best time to go.
2. Do not drive a nice car here, it will get dinged.
3. Do not wear fancy or flashy clothes here.
4. Do not wear lots of jewelry here.
5. Dress down.
6. Do not leave anything of value in your car.
7. Do not go here at the beginning of the month, wait until the well fare checks are spent.
Don’t follow these rules, and it’s likely you will have a very bad day…

There are LOTS of kids running and yelling, and their dirt-bag and/or thug “parents” won’t control them. The isles are dirty, the check out lines are long and slow. I couldn’t wait in line any longer and had to leave my cart and walk out…

And here’s another good one (yes, this is for real).

I use to go here to get more groceries for my money. Someone broke my window out of my car because they thought our dog carrier had something of value in it. Thank god they didn’t steal my Pekingese, who was in the SUV! The window will be about $150. Very bad neighborhood! Their customer service is horrible. Manager didn’t return my phone call!

Also, here’s a video I found of someone apparently trying to steal some food from there and arguing with the security guy about not showing a receipt. It’s worth watching for a couple of minutes.

Yep, I would say that grocery shopping with Mo was quite the adventure but look at it this way — we saved at least $50. I can’t wait to go back.


The Big 3-3 And What This Last Year Has Meant To Me

Happy 33!

First question, when did I hit 30? Second question, am I really 33 already? According to my Facebook wall, random texts from Congo and future phone calls from friends and family it’s true so who’s to say otherwise? Ok, I’ll admit it — I’m creeping into my mid-30s. I guess the only thing that’s good about this whole “getting older” thing is that this past year was most likely one of the most positively transitional times of my life. Meaning, even though there was plenty of struggle for me in the past 365 days (you have no idea), last year was amazing to experience and I feel more blessed now than ever. In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m in my prime.

So what are some of the thing that have made my last year so valuable to me? I’m sure I could write a million things and go page after page but none of us really want that. We’re all busy people with limited time, which is why I’m happy to give you a Cliff Notes version instead.

To all of my friends and family who have been there for me over the past year, you’ll never have any idea what your love and support has meant to me. I love you and I hope you already knew that without me having to tell you in a blog. Moving on…

Learning what loving someone really means. There are plenty of ways to show that you love someone but the most powerful way is by doing what you know is right and fighting for what you believe. Always keeping someone happy isn’t loving them. Being honest, sacrifice and never letting go is love to the fullest.

Studying the Bible. I’m a strong believer that if I’m going to put my faith in Jesus Christ then I had better know what I’m signing up for. The Bible is the center of following Christ and although I feel a strong spiritual connection I didn’t feel like I knew enough about the word. To learn more about it I’ve been going to Bible Study Fellowship in SF for the past few months and it’s been a great way to dig deeper into my faith.

Becoming a morning person, for real. I’ve never been a morning person but as I got older and had more responsibility I felt like getting up early was the only option for squeezing in everything into one day. It’s been tough and I don’t always stick with it (like when I was in Indiana for the holidays) but I’m not well aware of the amazing benefits getting up at the crack of dawn and it’s becoming more of a habit every day.

Meeting Mo. Wow, what can I say about Mo other than the fact that he’s been one of the biggest blessing’s I’ve ever had in my life. If you would have told me that becoming friends with someone who’s homeless would end up shaping me into a man more than everything else in my life combined I would have called you crazy. The work that God is doing on Mo is nothing short of a miracle and how the relationship has challenged me personally isn’t too far behind. Of course, the fact that our story went viral all over the world was pretty crazy, too. That’s still hard to believe.

Realizing the value of real relationships. My entire life it’s been really easy for me to become friends with lots of people. What hasn’t always been easy for me is creating strong, personal and meaningful relationships with the people in my life who really matter most. This past year of my life I’ve focused on taking the time and making the effort to show those who mean the most to me how much I love them and all I hope is that they’ve noticed.

My connection to Congo. I’m really not sure how it happened but somehow, someway I’ve developed an amazing connection to Congo and the amazingly beautiful people who live there. Traveling there for the second time last year was an incredible experience for me and the time I was able to spend with my Congolese brothers and sisters is something I hold very dear to my heart. If you haven’t seen me dancing while in Congo I suggest you take a look, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I have a feeling my story with Congo isn’t close to being over and I can’t wait to see where God takes it next.

Seeing isocket grow into a real company. A little over three years ago I was the first employee at a small, unknown online advertising startup called isocket. I had no idea what I was doing and I knew nothing about the online advertising world but for some reason I felt like what we were doing was important and that our fearless leader, John Ramey knew exactly what he was doing. A couple rounds of funding and about fifteen more employees later we’re building a business that’s leading what’s predicted to be a multi-billion dollar market.

Killing caffeine. I’ve tried to kick the habit of downing Big Gulps full of Dew, brewing K-cups and heading to Starbucks but I always came back. A month or so I ago I decided for the last time that I’m done with caffeine and this time I’m sticking with it. When I’m in shape I don’t need it, I don’t like feeling dependent on it and it only makes me more anxious and over-energized anyway. If you know me you already know I’ve got plenty of energy to burn so cutting out caffeine was really the only option for me.

Dedicating time to writing. I guess this is becoming more apparent as I write more posts like this one you’re reading right now but I’ve been writing more than ever over the past year (and especially over the past couple of months). It’s a great way for me to get my thoughts together and I’m a believer in the power of sharing experiences with others as a way to help them with the things they’re dealing with in their lives. We were never meant to go through things along and getting my thoughts and experiences out to the world can only help.

I’m sure I missed some stuff but these are the handful of things that immediately came to mind when thinking back at all of the awesome things that have happened to me during my thirty-second year on this crazy planet of ours. I’m feeling great going into my thirty-third and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you have anything you would like to share with me on my birthday, I’d love to hear from you. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop in and spend time in my little corner of the internet and I can only hope that your past year was as fun and fulfilling as mine. Happy birthday to me and we’ll catch up soon.


photo credit:


Me vs. Mo – Eating Chicken Wings

Mo vs Me BBQ Chicken Wings.jpg

I know I don’t talk a lot about how Mo’s doing and what we’ve been up to so I thought it would be good to post something about him. Our relationship has been an experience like nothing else and I feel like even at this point I could write a book about all the things we’ve been through together. Our friendship isn’t what most would consider normal and it’s only through the grace and love of God that we’ve got to where we are today.

Instead of talking about Mo or retelling one of the many stories he’s told me about his life I wanted to give a simple difference between us that I’ve noticed. The one thing Mo loves to do more than anything is eat. The guy can put down some food like I’ve never seen. Even thought that’s interesting in itself the way he eats is what caught my eye.

When Mo eats he doesn’t waste a thing. Most of the time he eats everything on his plate (or plates) and if he has something left he’ll save it for later. A good example of this when we went to a pizza and wings place yesterday to watch the 49ers game. We ordered some BBQ wings and after we had pretty much taken down the entire order Mo looked over at the pile of wings I had eaten and began to scold me for what I apparently had done wrong.

“Look at all that meat on those wings! Are you going to waste all that meat?” he asked me in disgust. I felt like my mom was yelling at me for doing something wrong and didn’t really know what to say back. What I saw was a pile of fully eaten BBQ chicken wings but what Mo saw was something else. I was wasting too much of the delicious, BBQ coated wings and he wasn’t happy with it.

I told Mo he could have them if he really wanted them and before I finished my sentence he already had one of the bones in his mouth finishing it off to his level of satisfaction. There’s no way he was going to let that meat go to waste.

When we left he threw the uneaten wings into a to-go box along with the half dozen or so wings that I had apparently not finished to his liking. He’d be taking care of them later and wasn’t about to let them get thrown away. I know there was a time when Mo wasn’t sure where his next meal was coming from and it seems like he’s still in that mindset even though his circumstances have changed significantly. I guess some habits are hard to break.


Giving Up Your Plans For Life

I love to feel like I have control of a situation. I like to have my calendar booked during the week to maximize productivity and I like to have my weekend planned out. But just because that’s what I like doesn’t mean that’s what actually happens.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I’m being lazy which really bothers me. But other times I have things planned and for one reason or another life gets in the way. You know, like real life. The part of life that we don’t control and a lot of times the part that’s the most exciting, if we let it be.

The past weekend, for example, I had planned to get all kinds of things done around. I wanted to help one of my friends get his paintings online, I wanted to buy some new running clothes, I had a couple of birthday parties to go to and I also wanted to figure out a better way to manage my daily contacts (I’ll explain this one later). Unfortunately none of these things got done but I didn’t let that frustrate me and pull me away from the life stuff that was happening in it’s place.

That life stuff ended up being Mo going back to the hospital after getting released only five hours earlier. Me and my friend’s original plans were to go grab him from the hospital, get some food and then do whatever we had left on our calendars for that day. Our plans ended up being going to eat and then taking him right back to the emergency room.

Spending several hours with Mo and another friend in the hospital wasn’t exactly what I had imagined doing for the day but I didn’t let the fact that my plans were changed affect the way I felt and acted when Mo needed some help. Being able to be in the moments of life is one thing but being in the moments without being anxious or thinking about what you’re not doing is another.

Life decided to change up my plans and now Mo’s back home and healthy (for now). Like I was telling my friend, it’s not the Saturday that I would have planned but it ended up being a lot of fun anyway.


Sundays With Mo Part Two – Church, Chipotle and the Gas Station Homies

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]This is second post that describes how Mo and I usually spend our Sundays together (here’s the first installment). The time that we hang on the last day of the weekend is something that I look forward to and thought it would be fun to give you a quick glimpse of what it’s like. Enjoy and like Mo always says, “Be nice!”. [/box]

The Church Service Seating Assignments

There’s a set seating chart during church, well at least for Mo there is. I tend to float around a little bit until I end up sitting down next to someone I know. Mo sits in the same place every Sunday and it’s pretty much become his spot. It’s near the back of the church at the end of the very last row of pews.

This specific location has become his regular seat for two main reasons: 1. because there’s an outlet right there and 2. it’s near the back door in case he needs to cool off and go for a walk (or a smoke). Mo needs to sit next to an outlet so he can plug in and charge the ankle monitor he’s been wearing the past four years he’s been or parole. This might sound funny but I’m totally used to finding an outlet for him no matter where we go (on the train, at my apartment, at Bible study, etc.).

Socializing and Finding Food

After the service is over that’s when the real socializing begins. At this point Mo’s been going to church with me for over six months so there’s not very many people who don’t know how he is. All different types of people like chatting with Mo and they all seem really interested in his story.

At this point Mo usually somehow sneaks into one of the classes/meetings that are going on between services and grabs some food. It doesn’t matter what they have, he’s more than happy to take it off their hands. I’ve seen everything from sandwiches to pies to doughnuts and fruit — if there’s something they’re willing to give up, Mo will eat it.

Mo’s Five Pound Burrito Bowl

Usually after 30-45 minutes we leave the church, which means the next stop is lunch. More times than not we head straight for a nearby Chipotle that’s seemed to become our food of choice. I always order first because Mo likes to take his time and really push the employees to turn his order into a masterpiece. My order is a fairly traditional burrito bowl that for me is a pretty good-sized meal. Mo on the other hand turns the traditional burrito bowl into what feels like a five pound bowl of Mexican awesomeness.

I can almost hear him asking those poor Chipotle employees a million things as I’m sitting here writing this.

“Can you add a little more steak on there for me please?”

“You’ve got to put the lettuce on there before the sour cream.”

“Put some more beans on there, would ya?”

“I need some more lettuce on there…can I get some more lettuce?”

“You need to drizzle the sour cream, drizzle it on there like this…” (as he makes hand motions to show them what he means)

When he would first ask all of these questions I would feel awkward and didn’t really know how to handle it. But now that we’ve gone there so many times and I know it’s just how Mo operates I actually enjoy seeing him in action. I can say all I want about it but the fact is even though it takes him longer than me to get through the line his burrito bowl weighs at least twice as much as mine does. Do your thing, Mo. Do your thing.

There’s just something about eating together with someone that brings out the best conversations. It’s like the food that you’re enjoying created the perfect opportunity to have great conversations. I can’t tell you how many times Mo and I have had some really candid chats over our Chipotle burrito bowls. Not all of them end well (Mo’s walked off multiple times) but they’ve all been a part of getting to know, trust and understand each other. I guess you could say that burrito bowls and some chips and guac have been the great equalizer for me and Mo and I’m grateful for every lunch we’ve eaten there together.

Our Homies at the Gas Station

Once we’re all good and stuffed with every Mexican ingredient Chipotle has to offer we wander back to my car, take a deep breath and start making our way to the last stop before heading to San Francisco. Even though a gas station doesn’t really seem like something you’d look forward to our last stop is always a fun way to end the Sunday long morning.

When I pull in and start pumping the gas Mo gets out and starts washing all of the windows. I never really ever told him to do this but it’s quickly become part of the routine. One time him and another one of his buddies Stewart were washing the windows on my car and an older woman who saw what they were doing walked over to ask them a question.

“Hey, can you guys wash my windows, too?”, she asked while most likely thinking that they were just a couple of guys trying to make a quick buck. Both Mo and Stewart gave the woman a funny look for a second and then quickly went over to her car and started washing her windows, too. This really gave me a good laugh, especially when the she gave them two dollars out of her purse once they were done.

The most important stop at the gas station is when we head into the convenience store and hang out with the two guys who work there. One of who has become one of my Twitter homies. His name’s Fernando, he’s going to college for design and he loves Pugs. We roll in there and I grab my Mountain Dew, Mo grabs anything he can get his hands on (ice cream, hot dogs, slurpy, candy, you name it). Even though Mo just ate 4-5 pounds of Chipotle he still somehow eats more things that I buy for him at the gas station. It’s kind of amazing how much that guy can eat.

Back Up To San Francisco For Dinner and Football

We say our good-byes, hit the road and head back up to San Francisco. On the way back we’ll jam to the R&B station until Mo falls asleep, which is usually around 2-3 minutes. After that I cruise up the rest of the way until we get back the beautiful city of San Francisco.

After we get back we’ll stop by the grocery store so Mo can get all of the food he needs to whip us up some dinner. Slowly but surely he’s building a good foundation of ingredients at my place so that he can cook some of the things he wants. For example, two things that Mo says I should always have in my kitchen are a bag of potatoes and Lawry’s seasoned salt. I guess I can’t really argue with that.

While he’s making the dinner we’ll throw some NFL games on the TV (which he loves to watch) and our laundry in the washer. Once all of that’s going I’ll usually take off to go get some work done and let Mo do his thing. When I come back I can usually smell what Mo’s cooking all the way down the hallway in my apartment building and I’m never disappointed in what he’s whipped up for us. I know I’ve said this before but he’s got some serious skills when it comes to cooking.

The final thing is eating dinner together, which we both always enjoy. Fried chicken, meatloaf, greens, hammocks, sausages, hamburgers, corn, mashed potatoes and chicken livers are just a few of the things that Mo’s cooked for us over the past few months and there’s never been a meal I didn’t love. “Man, you can really eat, Ryan!”, he’ll say to me whenever I go up for seconds. For some reason he doesn’t think that I like to eat. “Any time you cook I like to eat, Mo.”, I tell him. He usually just smiles and keeps on eating.

I love my Sundays with Mo.


Chasing The Dragon

Today I was talking to Mo about living on the street and he pulled out a term that I had never heard before. We got on the topic about drugs and more specifically smoking crack (which Mo has done plenty of times before). He told me all about where people buy it (in the Tenderloin, of course), how much it costs, how it’s smoked and what the high is like.

Apparently it’s a very short but powerful high that hits you instantly when you breathe in the smoke. He said the actual high is usually less than a minute long and once you take the hit you immediately feel like you need to take another one or you’ll start to crash very quickly. If you don’t get high again you’ll start tweaking out soon after and will get the jitters while you frantically search for ways to get back to the feeling you just had. Mo called this feeling and need to have another high “Chasing The Dragon” and after looking up the term online here’s a great definition that I found for chasing the dragon on

This term is a bit more complicated than merely “smoking opium”. It starts when you have your first high, the world is peaceful, everything is perfect, you’re numb, but in the best way possible. But, soon, it starts wearing off. Fast. Your mind races, you’re pulled out of your dream world. You crave the drug more and more, wanting to feel the same way as you did on your first high. You go to the dealer and buy the same amount you had the first time, and smoke. Still feels good, but not as good as first time. You go and buy more. Closer, but not quite there. You’re stuck, you don’t know what to do. You want to go back to that little dream world and stay forever, but your body is already developing a tolerance. You panic. You use all your money to buy more and more and more, but still, not the same as that first time. You realize that you have no more money, so you start selling your things, pawning whatever could get you that next bag. Still, nothing compared to what you had on that first, magical time. So, you’re broke and own nothing. But you don’t care, all you care about is getting back to the first high. You start stealing, doing “favors”, whatever gets you the money for the attempt. Your life becomes a living hell, all in search of a repeat of the first high. That’s chasing the dragon.

Mo is very open with his past drug use and he’s such a blessing for other people who are in a bad situation that he can speak truth into. The world that he lives in is such a different place with so many different problems that most of us can’t even comprehend. I feel like he can (and has already started to) have a big impact in the lives of other homeless in San Francisco and it’s been amazing to be part of the story that God has just started to write about his life.

Also, I wanted to mention that there’s a book called Chasing The Dragon that’s about a woman whose ministry was helping drug addicts and prostitutes in Hong Kong. Yeah, I bought it.


Sundays With Mo Part One – Sunday Morning Until The Beginning Of Church

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]This is the first of a series of posts about how I’ve been spending my Sundays with Mo and here’s the second one.[/box]

For the past few weeks Mo has made dinner for us on Sunday night. This meal is the icing on the cake of a routine that has quickly become something that I now look forward to on a weekly basis. I really feel like Mo has a gift for cooking and I never see him more happy than when he’s doing his thing in the kitchen. It’s been really great to see him in his element and spending my Sundays with Mo is something that I hope sticks around for a while.

Our routine is simple, first Mo shows up Sunday morning for church. We’ve been going to the early service that starts at 9am. We then head to the Caltrain station and pick up a couple of other guys who live on the street so they can roll down with us to Redwood City, which is about a 40 minute drive south of San Francisco. This past week we picked up Stewart and Max, two guys who I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the past few months. When we pull up to the station Mo hops out of the car and goes into the waiting room inside the train station because that’s where Stewart will be sleeping.

Stewart will have been there since the Caltrain station opened up that morning and before that you can find him riding the longest bus routes in San Francisco attempting to get some shut-eye. He told me that each trip, one-way is about 45 minutes and if he’s lucky the driver will let him stay on the bus while he takes his break before driving back. Stewart has been to church with me before and hops in the back seat. He’s wearing his standard do-rag and black hoodie and he seems talkative which means he’s gotten more sleep than usual. It must have been a nice bus driver.

Max sleeps outside over by AT&T field and I’ll see him sometimes when I’m out doing my morning run. He’s from Arizona and has been living on the street for the past five months. I like to catch him in the morning when I can because he’s an alcoholic and once he starts drinking he doesn’t stop. He lives on food stamps, which is $200/month and has a tattoo of a rosary around his neck that goes down to the middle of his chest. He’s forty-six years old but has a full head of slicked back salt and peppered hair that makes him look younger than that. I’m a little surprised to find out that he’s going to roll down to church with us but more than happy to give him a ride.

We all hop in and although to most people this would be the weirdest car pool of all time it has somehow become what I do every Sunday. We all drive down together and the amount of conversation we have is directly related to the amount of sleep they were able to get the night before. But, no matter what we talk about Mo, who always rides shotgun, turns the radio to 106.1 which is the gospel station on the way to church that turns to a hip-hop station after.

Once we get to church Mo feels right at home. He’s greeted by name and everyone loves to talk to him. People are still getting to know Stewart and it’s Max’s first time but you would never know it. Although some of the people there look like some of the same people who pass them by without saying a word to them no the streets of San Francisco they’re very different. All of the guys are greeted with love and the type of attention and conversation that all humans need but that they rarely ever get to experience.We all take full advantage of the free coffee and after saying our hellos and doing introductions we head in to the service.

Sundays with Mo are great and there’s lots more to tell but I don’t want to drag this on forever. I’ll post Part II later this week when I have some time. I hope you’re enjoying reading this and just remember that you never know where your heart will lead you when you open it up more than you ever have. It’s been an adventure for me and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Have an awesome week and more coming soon.

We Should Be Doing More Than Just Surviving


This morning I met a homeless man named Trey in the San Francisco Caltrain station and he asked me if I could spare some change. This is a situation that I’m very familiar with.

I had a few minutes before my train took off so I told him I would buy him something to eat. He wanted Subway so we headed over to the beginning of the line to start the order. Before we even had the chance to say “footlong cold cut combo” the man behind the counter started yelling something to me that was a mix of English and some other language that definitely was not English.

“I will not give him sandwich — no buy him sandwich!” he said in a loud voice as we moved down the line of sliced meat and veggies.

“Hey, man — all I want is a footlong cold cut…” Trey yelled back. He didn’t seem too surprised that they weren’t too willing to give him what he wanted, which made me wonder what was going on.

I walked up and talked the Subway employee and in as good of English as possible he told me something about how Trey tried to take back a sandwich someone bought him for some money and that he had to call the cops on him. In other words, Trey wasn’t going to be getting his footlong.

So, we moved on to another coffee shop that’s next to the Subway and tried it again.

“What do you want from here?” I asked while checking my phone to see how much time I had before my train was supposed to leave. “Hmmm, I guess I’ll take a sausage and egg burrito and a large coffee.” Trey said and I got in line as he started telling me how he was from St. Louis and was staying in a homeless shelter that’s a block away from where I live.

Just then one of the guys who worked at the coffee shop walked out to where we were standing and told me that Trey had been stealing from him. He also told me that he had put a restraining order on Trey . I told the man thanks for the info, stepped out of line and confronted Trey about the accusations.

I looked right in his eyes and said “Hey Trey, have you been stealing from these guys?”

“No, man — I haven’t stole nothing from them.” he quickly replied.

I asked again, “Trey, are you sure you have never stole anything from this coffee shop? Ever? If you have, it’s ok — we all do stuff like this, but I need you to tell me the truth.”

Once again he told me no directly to my face and with that I had to say goodbye to Trey and head off to Burlingame. For some reason this interaction really stuck with me while I was riding down to work today which is why I felt like I needed to write something about it. I’m pretty sure that Trey has done some things that he’s not too proud and that he was in the middle of a tough time in his life where he feels like the only way out is to steal and do whatever it takes to survive.

But to that I would say that the only way for him to make it out of the struggles he’s facing and the world that he’s living in isn’t to only do what it takes to survive. It’s doing whatever it takes to change his heart and his mind from the inside out. For Mo that change has happened over time through the fact that he has been putting more faith in what Jesus Christ can do in his life than what he can control and do himself. Through that I’ve been able to help him and so have several others that have been brought into his life.

I might not be homeless, but I’m learning to do the same exact same thing in my life and it’s always a struggle. All I pray for is that Trey would one day do the same thing.

We should all be doing much more than just surviving.


Mo Shows Off His Cooking Skills

As I’m writing this with a belly full of delicious southern-style cooking I’m wondering why I never had Mo cook for me before. It’s not like he hasn’t talked about it. Go ahead, I dare you to bring up how you cook your favorite dish. He’ll quickly tell you how you’re missing something important and that he has the best way to cook it. In fact, not only will he tell you how to cook it, he’ll show you with the animation and energy that only Mo has. It’s quite a show and I’ve seen it happen many times over the past few months.

Once he starts it’s hard for him to stop and it’s actually really entertaining for me to watch. Cooking greens? Well you’ll need to make sure to let them cook this way or that way and you can’t forget to do this to them or they’re just not going to end up with the right taste. Oh, you’re going to cook some ribs? Then you better make sure that you put on the right type of seasoning and cook them for the right amount of time or they’re not going to be falling off the bone like they should be.

In other words, I had always heard about how Mo knows his way around a kitchen but for some reason I had never had him cook anything for us before. This is most likely due to the fact that I don’t really dream about food like he does and when I do eat something it usually consists of my four main food groups — hummus, carrots, salami and cheese. I guess you can throw some salads and naan from Trader Joe’s in there, too but these are things that Mo doesn’t even consider to be edible. He actually makes fun of me for the fact that I don’t have any “real” food that he can eat. Yes, that’s right — Mo, who has been homeless for four years makes fun of me for not having the right kind of food in my refrigerator. I guess that everyone has their opinion.

Anyway, today after we went down to church I decided to skip the usual trip to Chipotle. Instead, Mo and I made our way back up the 101 to San Francisco and made a stop by good ol’ Trader Joe’s. I told Mo that I wanted him to make us some dinner and that he could buy whatever he wanted/needed to make that happen. I gave Mo a blank check for what I’m sure was his first trip to Trader Joe’s and after seeing all of the things he could pack into one of their hand baskets I started to wonder if it was the right thing to do. Here’s some of what he ended up buying:

  • Corn on the cob
  • Flour
  • Smoked bacon
  • Chicken legs (he couldn’t find turkey feet)
  • Multiple bags of different types of greens
  • Broccoli
  • Seasoned salt (which unfortunately wasn’t Lawry’s, his favorite)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Chips
  • Canola oil
  • lots of other stuff that I can’t remember

About 45 minutes and $80 later we’re walking out of Trader Joe’s with all of the ingredients for a meal that even Mo would be proud of. He was already talking about how good it was going to be and I was willing to skip lunch so I was hungry enough to enjoy it.

Soon after we got back to my apartment Mo took total control over the kitchen and it was impressive seeing him go from one thing to another. He filled up my sink with greens that he chopped up and before you know it he was cooking those down in a huge pot. It didn’t take long before delicious smells of whatever he was working on started reaching out into every corner. He was all over the place and for someone who hasn’t cooked a full meal like this in about ten years he seemed to know exactly what he was doing.

At this point Mo had taken over my kitchen and I just got out of the way. 

As the greens were cooking he started working on the fried chicken. He covered each of the chicken legs with some flour and seasoning and laid them carefully in the hot canola oil that was already heated up in a pan on another burner. Soon, all four burners will filled with some of Mo’s magic — greens, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. The whole time he seemed to be having a lot of fun and even started singing while paying half attention to his cooking and the other half to the NFL game on the TV. I could tell that Mo was cooking up a masterpiece and it didn’t take long before I was filling up my plate with a little bit of everything that he had to offer.

The proud chef and his masterpiece.

Fried chicken? You know it. Mac ‘n cheese? Yes, please. Corn on the cob? Bring it on. Greens? I thought you’d never ask.

I piled it all on my plate, we gave thanks and then I finally experienced the awesomeness of Mo’s down-home southern-style cooking. Mo ate, I ate, Mo laughed at me while saying “look at the white boy eating greens”. It was pretty epic.

I quickly cleaned my plate and went for seconds before Mo could start to think about it. Every single thing he made was stupid good and even though I had heard him talk about how amazing his cooking was I felt a little ridiculous for not doing this sooner. Mo has some serious skills and I can’t wait to see what he cooks up next.