By Minnesota's hardy standards, it was a drop in the bucket, or more accurately, a few flakes in the air. Still, it was a pesky snowfall, the first of the season, and those few flakes were just enough to coat the ground.
In my haste to make it on time to a radio interview, I took a spill on the sidewalk. No injury. But plenty of ego-bruising insult I foisted on myself, especially when nobody buzzed me into the building no matter how many times I tapped the keypad. Until Rico showed up.
I didn't know him when he came around the corner and down the alley, his hair spotted with those offensive sticky snowflakes. He could have been passing by or a security guard in his semi-official looking jacket, a homeless panhandler or worse. He and I were alone in the narrow alley.
"Here, I'll let you in," he offered, punching the secret code with authority I didn't have. "This weather sucks, doesn't it?"
Brushing off my snow-covered back and trying to collect myself two minutes before I was due in front of the microphone, mine wasn't a chatty mood, but in the ride up the elevator he said he was going my way. And he was, leading me right into the studio.
"I work here. Actually, I'm a volunteer right now," he explained. I thanked him and introduced myself to the producer.
"Are you really William Moyers?" Rico interjected from behind. "The guy I read about who's an alcoholic and addict just like me?" He stuck out his hand and shook mine. Rico shared a snapshot of his life.
"I'm 100 percent Mexican-American, born and raised in Minnesota, the youngest of five, plus both parents. We were the first 'non-whites' in Faribault, Minnesota in the '70s. I am also a sexual abuse survivor, got addicted to all kinds of drugs and at the end when I was smoking crack, I'd cry so hard and shake I'd have to get somebody else to light the pipe."
Telling me his story, Rico smiled, as he should.
"Finally, I've been clean and sober for 21 months, man."
Rico got help at Metro Hope Ministries. It's a non-profit in downtown Minneapolis with an unambiguous vision: "To be so focused on Jesus Christ that everyone that comes to our door will be permanently transformed by grace."
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