I Still Have Joy

IMG_8856The first week or two that Tony was at Joseph’s House he was always in such a good mood, always so cheerful that I thought, “Is this guy for real?”

Turns out, he is.

Tony is a chef and from the day he arrived he started cooking for the house, preferring to orchestrate big dinners. His favorite is a feast of fried croaker, steamed clams, greens, and macaroni and cheese. Whenever he cooks a meal, he beams and says that he just wants us to enjoy it. And we do. We enjoy the food, of course, and also the camaraderie his meals always seem to nurture. I love when Tony cooks, but it wasn’t his cooking that won me over.

It was a moment early one morning on our front porch. A group of us were headed to an out-of-town retreat and we met at the house for an early departure. I was the last to arrive and Tony was sitting on the porch as he often does. As we loaded the luggage, Tony stood at the top of the stairs like a proud father or loving uncle who you know will be there awaiting your return, whether it’s a few days or many months later. It was just something in his eyes or his expression that said “I care about these folks and I look forward to their coming home.” I quickly ran up the stairs to say good-bye. He extended his hand, but I went in for a hug.

A couple of weeks later around the breakfast table, Tony suggested a group outing that evening to the Kennedy Center for a jazz concert. The Millennium Stage was hosting The Sounds of New Orleans series. Tony had printed out flyers for several of the shows and hung them on the bulletin board in an effort to generate enthusiasm.

Would I go along, he asked. My first, unspoken reaction was “no.” It was a Monday, I had lots of work to do, and leaving the house by 4:00 seemed impossible. I needed more time to plan, more time to get ready. “Maybe,” I answered instead.

As the morning wore on, though, I started to think that it was just the right thing to do. I could sense his desire to share his love of the music, so much like his desire to share a good home-cooked meal. And I appreciated that he saw something in me that needed to be shaken up.

IMG_8723Soon, Patty and I hatched a plan to load up the van and head downtown. It was a magical evening. When we arrived, the ushers took us and a group from Christ House right up to the front. The place filled up quickly and when the Soul Rebels came on stage, they rocked the house. We danced and rocked right along with them. I looked over at Tony at one point and his face was aglow. Afterwards, we gathered on the terrace for a few minutes to enjoy the glorious weather before heading back.

By this point, Tony had become a beloved fixture in the community, but it was a month later, at another concert, the Concert for Life, that I finally came to understand what it is in Tony that touches me so deeply. Towards the end of the night, a gospel choir sang a rousing rendition of “I Still Have Joy.” The lyrics, “After all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy,” and the joy and triumph in their voices shook me.

I actually don’t know what Tony’s been through in his life, but I imagine that like most residents at Joseph’s House, there have been some pretty hard times. What I do know for sure, though, is that Tony has joy, and I witness that his joy brings out the joy in others. It certainly does in me.

Tony came to Joseph’s House at a time when I deeply needed joy in my life and he led me to it. As it turns out, after all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy.


  1. Linda Crowe says

    Thanks for sharing this Scott. I’m lucky to know you. Wish I could have known Tony, too.

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