A Place for Family

By Gretchen Eichenberg, Kathleen Seaman and Kevin Tankersley

Meet four families who call Waco home

You might call them accidental Wacoans. Michal and Lindsay Peichl were trying to move their family of five from Houston to Austin, when they stumbled upon another gem of Central Texas. The self-employed restorers of antique maps and prints needed a home with significant workspace and also wanted to raise their children in a community with great quality of life. They were thrilled to find a spacious lake-view home in need of significant renovations, which came at a good price. And the Peichls had plenty of family time to get settled, as the coronavirus pandemic hit shortly after they moved in. But they said the natural setting of their new home provided peace and comfort during a troubling time. The Peichls have three children — Chloe, 12, Max, 10, and Rosie, 5 — who attend Eagle Christian Academy.

The Peichl Family

Family Fun:
Watching nature shows. Going boating or kayaking at the lake.

Family culture: Multicultural. Tight-knit. Warm. Real. Welcoming.

Family traditions: Eating Nutella crepes for breakfast about once a week. Listening to Michal play guitar, singing old Czech songs.

Typical Saturday: “At the lake,” Lindsay said. “We have become lake bums.”

Family vacation: “We like to visit the Czech Republic to visit the kids’ grandparents and the rest of Michal’s family because Michal is from there,” Lindsay said.

How did COVID-19 affect your daily lives? “Not a lot, since we work at home,” Lindsay said. “Home schooling the kids was different, but even that worked out well. Living by the lake was especially a blessing during that time.”

Why Waco? “With the type of work we do, we can live anywhere FedEx goes,” Michal said. “We were coming from Houston, where Lindsay’s family lives, and after looking for two years around the Austin area, we found everything we wanted in this house in Waco. We needed a house layout that could have the living upstairs and the work downstairs and, being that it was on a lake, we were inspired to take on the renovation.”

Family values: Honesty. Humility. Hospitality. Compassion. Charity. Faith.

The McKinney Family

Heydi is a bilingual forensic interviewer for the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. Jamar is an electrical planner for a power plant in Franklin, Texas. They have three children, Jaylon Ramos, 17,Tristyn, 13, and Camryn, 10 — and a dog named Ollie. Jaylon attends Robinson High School, while Tristyn and Camryn attend school in Houston where they live full time with their mother. They typically spend every other weekend and half the summer in Waco with Heydi, Jamar and Jaylon, but recently they’ve been here more due to the quarantine.

Family culture: Diverse. Outgoing. United. Competitive. Blessed.

Family fun: Cameron Park. Movie theater. Board games.

Family vacation: Fredericksburg. Enchanted Rock. “We went to Mackinac Island [in Michigan],” Heydi said. “That was incredible. It’s a little island where there are no cars. The only form of transportation is horses or bicycles.”

How did COVID-19 affect your daily lives? “We’ve had [Tristyn and Camryn] pretty much all of the quarantine. When they put the shelter-in-place in effect, it was right after spring break, and we already had them,” Heydi said. “Since Houston is a bigger city, we weren’t sure how bad it would get there, so we thought it would be best if they stayed here. The Advocacy Center is essential, but I’m only going in for the interview itself. I’ll stay and do paperwork afterward and then come back home.” “The power plant is essential, so it’s been business as usual,” Jamar said. “We’ve been very limited on going out, so we started doing a lot of stuff around the house, taken on a lot of DIY projects and started working in the garden.”

Waco date spots: Drinks at Balcones Distilling, then dinner at Milo All Day. Homestead Café for breakfast.

Family values: Humbleness. Leadership. Faith.

Family tradition: “Around New Year’s, we always sit down and roast s’mores and talk about next year’s goals,” Jamar said. “This year, we wanted to do a camping trip and wanted to do a Color Run.”

The Lewis Family

Lindsey Lewis is a temporary dental hygienist, taking assignments with dental offices as they become available and fit her schedule. She’s originally from South Dakota, graduated from China Spring High School and earned degrees from Texas State Technical College and Temple College. Gabe Lewis is marketing manager for Ellex Medical, a manufacturer of ophthalmic equipment. He works mostly from home. An Arlington native, he graduated from Texas Tech University and, more recently, George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. Lindsey and Gabe are the parents of five children: Brody Journey, 11, Presley Paige, 10, Cash Allen, 9, Boston Jude, 5, and Dakota Reign, 2. They live in China Spring, close to Lindsey’s parents.

Family culture: Faith. Hope. Lots of love.

Family traditions: Movie and pizza on Friday nights. “We celebrate [our first spouses’] birthdays,” Lindsey said, “and our first marriages’ anniversaries.”

Family vacation: “If money is no object, a Disney cruise,” Lindsey said. “They are amazing. They do it up right. There’s no vacation like it.”

Family fun: “We take our bikes to Cameron Park and then ride [up the riverwalk],” Lindsey said. “We like to eat at the food trucks or Fuzzy’s [Taco Shop], then bike back on the other side of the river.”

Typical Saturday: “Sporting events,” Gabe said. “The boys play baseball and football; Presley cheers.”

Waco date night: “Moroso is a good date spot,” Gabe said. “Date nights consist of either a restaurant and a movie, or a restaurant and Walmart, or a restaurant, movie and Walmart, but usually Walmart is somewhere in there, sometimes Target.”

How did COVID-19 affect your daily lives? “We didn’t have a real transition to working from home because I’ve worked from home and she’s a stay-at-home mom most of the time,” Gabe said. “It slowed us down because baseball is canceled. Cheer is canceled” “No more practices, no more meetings,” Lindsey added. “We needed it. Our souls needed to stop for our family. The kids, they have come together in their relationships. Nobody’s asking to go anywhere or do anything, and they’re literally having to play with each other. It’s been such a blessing.”

Family values: Honesty. Empathy. Character. Hard work.

Jill Clements wasn’t trying to set anybody up on a date. She was just concerned about two people — one was a recent friend; one was an acquaintance from high school. These two were both in their late 20s and had recently been widowed. They were facing uncertain futures, needing the time and space to grieve the loss of their spouses, while keeping their lives together as the parents of toddlers.

But a couple of Facebook messages from Clements had more impact than she ever could have imagined.

Gabe Lewis lost his 28-year-old wife, Lindsay, on September 23, 2011, when she died of pneumonia. They were the parents of 2-year-old Brody and 11-month-old Cash. Lindsay was pregnant when she died.

Gabe and Lindsay’s first date was on Valentine’s Day 1998. It was … awkward. They almost held hands, and the evening certainly didn’t end with a kiss. Then Lindsay — a cheerleader — began dating another freshman, a freshman who was already playing varsity baseball and basketball.

Gabe turned 16 over the next summer and got his first car, a fire-engine red Jeep Wrangler, fully decked out with KC lights and everything. Anything to relieve that awkwardness. And he kept running into Lindsay, at church and at a big back-to-school event. Eventually, they started hanging out. Gabe, being a year older, helped Lindsay with homework. And they saw each other at church, of course, a church that the stud freshman athlete did not attend, by the way. The cheerleader and the superstar finally broke up, and Lindsay and Gabe officially became a couple on November 11, 1998.

After high school, they both attended Texas Tech University. Gabe proposed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, under the big Christmas tree, in December 2004. They got married on November 11, 2005.

Gabe and Lindsay lived in McKinney. He worked in medical sales, and she worked in web merchandising for the Fossil brand. Lindsay went on to become a certified teacher and taught fourth grade for a year in Arlington, her hometown, at the same school where her mother had taught kindergarten for 29 years. Wanting to work closer to home, she was a substitute teacher in McKinney schools before taking a job at a nearby day care.

In August 2011, Lindsay told Gabe that a bump on her arm was bothering her. It was maybe an ingrown hair, she said, but it wasn’t going away. She wasn’t feeling well, and an urgent care doctor diagnosed her with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. A week later, after another trip to urgent care, it was discovered that she also had mononucleosis. A few days later, after an emergency room visit to a small, local hospital, Lindsay was taken by ambulance to a nearby intensive care unit, where doctors found she had double pneumonia. She died 10 days later.

Lindsey — note the “e” in her name — lost her husband, Scott, on November 13, 2011. It was a Sunday, and they needed to be at church, Trinity at Badger Ranch, early that day. Scott was a drummer for the praise band, and he needed to rehearse. Lindsey drove their Toyota 4Runner from their house in China Spring to the church in Woodway. She dropped Scott off at church and then continued to drive around so their 1-year-old daughter, Presley, could finish her morning nap. Lindsey’s mother, Janelle Carroll, was working in the nursery that day, so Presley was with her during the 10:30 a.m. contemporary worship service. Scott played drums during “Amazing Grace.” The sermon focused on tithing, and communion was served.

Following church, Lindsey, Scott and Presley had lunch at Panda Express. Presley, who usually only drank water, had some fruit punch that day. The last photo taken on Scott’s phone was of Presley enjoying that drink.

After lunch, the family made a quick stop at Anna’s Linens, which at the time was across the Target parking lot from Panda Express. Lindsey bought a curtain, and they headed across town to Dr. Ben Johnson’s dental practice in Bellmead, where Lindsey worked, to hang the curtain in a front office window. Scott was driving as they took the Highway 77 exit off of Interstate 35, near Sam’s Club. At one of the many intersections under the interstate, another driver ran a stop sign and hit the 4Runner on the driver’s side. The SUV rolled a couple of times, and Scott, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle. Lindsey got Presley out of her car seat and finally located Scott, who didn’t appear to be responsive. A woman Lindsey didn’t know took Presley and read her a book that was among the family’s belongings scattered in the collision. Lindsey called Scott’s parents, and she and Presley rode with them, behind the ambulance, to the emergency room. ER doctors determined that Scott needed to see a neurosurgeon; the closest one was in Temple, so arrangements were being made for a medical helicopter. That’s when someone, maybe the surgeon, told Lindsey and her parents and Scott’s parents, Mike and Lisa, and his sister, Allison, that Scott’s blood pressure was at zero. CPR had been done multiple times. He was 27. They were 35 days away from their seventh anniversary.

In 1996, Grant, had taken a job in Waco, moving the family down from Aberdeen, South Dakota. They arrived on a Saturday and went to church at Trinity the next day. Scott and Lindsey met in Sunday school. Their first date was on July 7, 1997.

Shortly after Lindsay died, Gabe began writing a blog at partofthemiracle.com. “I lost my wife two weeks ago to the day, and this is what ‘dealing’ with a loss through the eyes of faith looks like,” he wrote in “An Introduction,” the blog’s first post. Over time, in posts titled “Little Grey Dress,” “Love Notes,” “Last Dance” and “Dinner Time,” Gabe shared how he and Lindsay had met and told the story of their family, her death and what he was going through in dealing with his loss. Then, a few pages in, under a post titled “That’s a Wrap,” Gabe wrote: “About a year ago, I met someone that was just another grieving child of God. She too lost her spouse too soon. She too was left here to take care of their small child who had their parent snatched from them far too soon.”

That “someone” Gabe had met was Lindsey Abel. Jill Clements had been a sorority sister of Lindsay Lewis at Texas Tech, so she obviously had heard about Lindsay’s passing and had been reading Gabe’s blog. Having grown up in China Spring, she knew of Lindsey and Scott and had been reading Lindsey’s Facebook posts following their accident. She felt called to reach out to them both.

“If it was me and I was going through something like that, I would want to know that there’s someone out there who’s experiencing the same thing, and maybe call on them from a support group perspective,” Clements said. “I reached out to both of them on Facebook. I messaged her. ‘You’re going to think this is crazy, but I had a sorority sister and her husband seems like he’s really struggling.’ Then I reached out to Gabe and gave him a heads-up” that she had sent a message to Lindsey.

“She sent me this blog and said, ‘This has really helped me in my faith. I can only imagine it’ll help you in your faith with [having] such similar stories,’” Lindsey recalled of the Facebook message. “She said, ‘I never do this type of thing. I was in prayer over both of your families. I’m sorry if this comes across as weird, but I thought I would pass this along to you.’”

Clements sent those messages on December 8, 2011, one of the toughest days Gabe had faced since Lindsay died. Up to that point, he had been at peace, he said.

“I was thankful for my faith, and I was thankful that I knew where she was,” he said. “And I know God gave me this faith.”

Lindsay’s parents had come to Gabe’s house that day.

“I was sitting there on the floor, and I was throwing a tennis ball against the wall in Brody’s room,” he said. “Life is happening around me with the boys and my in-laws watching them, and I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of the house.’ I was angry for the first time.”

He walked to a nearby park and sat on top of a climbing rock. He watched the sunset, and he prayed.

“I’ve prayed for peace. You’ve given me peace,” Gabe said, remembering his prayer that night. “I’ve prayed not to have peace so that I could feel and miss her and experience all those emotions. You’ve given me everything I’ve asked for, but at this point, the only word that comes to mind is more. I needed more. I didn’t know what it was. And I said that out loud. I don’t know what it is, but I need more.”

When he got back home, he read the message from Clements, saying she had passed his blog on to this young widow facing similar circumstances.

“She was telling me about Lindsey, and nothing’s clicking at this point,” Gabe said. “It’s not like, oh, here’s my answer. I wasn’t expecting any answer. But then I got that message from Lindsey.”

Lindsey remembers first reading Gabe’s blog.

“Reading his posts was like, ‘This guy’s speaking my language. You’re on the island with me. Oh my goodness,’” she said. “And so I actually reached out to him on Facebook and said, ‘I have no one that knows what this is like. Can you walk through this with me, because I’m dying? Can you be that person?’

“Initially it was just grieving together. I’m having a rough day, and telling him stories about Scott and him telling me stories about Lindsay. He felt like such a safe place.”

And they laughed together, something Gabe felt he couldn’t do with others.

“I felt judged by outsiders, like, I shouldn’t be laughing right now,” he said. “I just lost my spouse. What are they gonna think?”

Facebook messages led to texting, which turned into phone calls, sometimes late into the night. Still, neither of them planned on anything more.

“I was so far from that,” Gabe said. “I never was gonna get married again. I was open about that, about never getting married. I had my love done. The boys and I are gonna move to an island somewhere. That’s what we’ll do.”

Lindsey agreed.

“It was scary because it was so soon,” she said. “It was not my timeline at all. If I were to pick how long before I even considered dating? Yeah, it was just too soon. Not my timeline at all.”

Still … there was a spark there.

Lindsey had an upcoming work trip to Georgia scheduled, and she and Gabe went back and forth, talking about whether to meet face-to-face at the DFW airport or not.

“That seemed safe,” Lindsey said, “having people around us, and we understand that we’re very vulnerable, super vulnerable. Then leading up to it, he’s saying, ‘No, we shouldn’t do it.’”

“Because I knew the feelings I was having for her,” Gabe said.

But they met and talked in person for an hour or so before Lindsey’s flight. Gabe, by his own admission, resembled Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Cast Away.”

“I’m 135 pounds at this point soaking wet,” he said. He had a scraggly beard and was wearing a hoodie and canvas Toms shoes that had seen better days. But he made an impression.

At Lindsey’s conference in Georgia, “I didn’t hear a word of what I was supposed to be listening to and then flew home the next day,” she said. “And as soon as I landed, I got a text message: ‘I’m here. I’m here at the airport.’ And my coworker was like, ‘Stranger danger,’ because when we came out of the terminal, we saw him and he said, ‘Can I take you back to Waco?’ And my co-worker said, ‘No. She’s not getting in the car with you.’ I was like, ‘It’s probably OK. He has two car seats in his backseat. Total dad car. And I think I can take him because he seems so frail.’ He drove me back to Waco to Dr. Johnson’s office and dropped me off there.”

Obviously things progressed, and Gabe and his sons moved to China Spring, where for a year they rented a house near Lindsey, “so we could date a little closer,” she said. They got married on January 18, 2014.

Gabe continued writing on his blog, and it became so well read that people “were asking me questions that a pastor should know,” he said. “I can give you my opinion, but I wasn’t formally trained or anything like that, and I wasn’t, to me, fully firm in my theology.”

To become more grounded in his theology, he explored the possibility of attending seminary, specifically George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor, where the cost can run more than $10,000 a semester. Lindsey, who by this time had become pregnant, was skeptical.

“Our life has felt like a whirlwind of chaos,” she said. “Me with one sweet baby girl adding two additional rowdy boys, pregnant. Things hadn’t calmed down yet. And he’s saying that he’s gonna go off to school, that we’re gonna spend thousands of dollars at Baylor. I was like, ‘Let’s not do that.’”

Gabe knew the idea was a stretch.

“It didn’t sound very smart at the time,” he admitted, “but it was something I just knew I wanted. And it felt right to me, even though there’s all these things telling me that maybe, you know, timing isn’t great. So first it was this open house [at Truett], and then it was, ‘Hey, I’m gonna apply and see what happens. We’ll use that as kind of a yes or no.’ And so I applied. I got in, and I started in the fall taking classes and we made the schedule work. I could work from campus because I work from anywhere.”

Gabe had classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and Lindsey was working on Wednesday and Friday, “so just taking it one day at a time, everything worked out,” he said.

Gabe graduated with a Master of Arts in Christian ministry with a concentration in sports ministry in May 2018.

The concepts he learned in seminary, “I could apply that to fatherhood and marriage, and just being a person in general. And so for me, it helped me form that theology that I was missing,” he said.

Gabe and Lindsey are intentional in honoring and remembering their previous spouses. In a Facebook post on November 13, 2018, on the seventh anniversary of Scott’s death, Gabe posted a photo of him and Presley eating frozen yogurt and wrote: “What better way to celebrate the life of Scott Abel than with dessert with the life he brought into this world? Blessed to be the man to love extra hard on the two girls he left behind. He’s the guy that makes it easy to answer the question, ‘If you could eat a meal with one person that you’ve never met, who would it be?’ Until that day comes, I’ll eat with the two who knew him well.”

And on May 27 of this year, on what would have been Lindsay’s 37th birthday, Lindsey posted: “Happy birthday to Momma Lindsay in heaven! So thankful for you and your eternal presence in our family! It’s been an honor keeping your memory alive for these three precious boys and introducing you and getting to know you better for the rest of us! Looking forward to the day I get to hug you!”

“I think that’s the difference of widowhood and divorce,” Lindsey said. “I know that he loves Lindsay, because I love Scott, and he knows that too. It doesn’t really even feel like a family of seven. It feels like a family of nine. It’s just that two of us live in heaven right now. And so that’s why the decals on the back of our car, we have the people down here and then we have our two angels that are up in heaven because they’re just part of us. The kids talk about their parents and we bring them up, and Lindsay and Scott, their pictures are hanging in our home. Lindsay and Scott are a part of our world for sure.”

The Thomas Family

Darryl and Alexia Thomas are parents to five children. Their 19-year-old daughter, Amiya, is in the U.S. Marine Corps, following in the footsteps of her father, who was in the Marines from 2000 to 2005 and was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Darryl Thomas III is 17 and will be a senior at University High School this fall. Derrick is 13; Darrius is 12; and Aliveyah is 10; they’ll all be students at Cesar Chavez Middle School. Darryl is an author, an at-risk interventionist, a mentor, a leadership and character coach, and founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization. He lovingly describes his wife as a “domestic engineer.” Alexia has a disorder called spinocerebellar ataxia, which Darryl described as “an incurable hereditary disease that affects the cerebellum and causes her motor skills to deteriorate,” which also affects her speech.

Waco date night: Fancy restaurant. Watch the sunset on the Brazos River.

Family culture: Christ-centered. Tight-knit. Humble beginnings.

Family fun: Going to the park or the movies. Doing puzzles. Bowling. “And we read books together,” Darryl said. “The last book we read together was ‘The Traveler’s Gift’ [by Andy Andrews]. We do family devotionals.”

Family vacation: How has COVID-19 affected your family? “Money-wise, because a lot of my work is done in the schools. So when the schools say, ‘Hey, nobody’s coming in,’ a good percentage of the income was me serving in the schools doing contracted work, so the income did take a hit because of that,” Darryl said. “But I truly believe that in the grand scheme of things that this COVID-19, the shelter-in-place and all that, I felt like it brought us together even more. That’s when we really got into reading books together. That’s when we really got into family devotionals. We started to go to the park just about every day. And it would just be us out there because of the whole social distancing. It was just a really good time to bond. It’s made us stronger, I believe.” Arizona. SeaWorld. Beach.

WACOAN: How do you spend your time?

Darryl: I try to make as much [time] as I can with family. My wife and my kids are my heartbeat. Besides family time, if I’m not doing community work, I’m speaking. If I’m not speaking, then I’m probably working on the next book. I’m an at-risk interventionist. I have a heart for the disadvantaged, underserved population of youth, teenagers all the way up to young adults. That’s kind of where I focus. I do some character coaching as well.

WACOAN: Tell me about your books, please.

Darryl: It’s “Today… I Win!: 7 Answers to Passing the Test.” The next book is “Today… I Win!: When Tests Go Beyond the Classroom.” A lot of times kids are distracted from their focus on academics, when it has nothing to do with school and has everything to do with what’s going on outside of the classroom. Family life, in particular. And so I speak to what I went through growing up, how there’s a lot of distractions.

I had a dad; he was abusive to women, couldn’t control his temper and abused women. He passed away when I was 14, in my arms. And then my mom, she was abusing drugs. We came up in deep poverty and all the things that come with that, the drug-infested neighborhoods, crime-ridden neighborhoods, that kind of stuff. But I talked about that in the book. Let them know that, again, those are tests that go beyond the classroom.

WACOAN: How did you —

Darryl: How did I get out? Honestly, I think it started with imagination. That’s one of the keys. It’s actually passing those tests that are going on outside of the classroom. Just begin to imagine. Understand that with the problems you’re currently facing, those situations are temporary. They really are, and they can be. Just see it as there being an expiration date on that situation, it’s going to expire. So what can I do meanwhile to get past this? How can I stay in this fight long enough to where I can outlast whatever I’m going through? That’s what I relied on heavily was my imagination.

I remember talking as a teenager to my cousins and my younger brother. I said, I want a wife and seven kids one day, and I kept saying that for some odd reason. But that’s what I was imagining. One day, I’m gonna have a family that’s healthy, where the marriage is healthy, that we’re not looking to split or divorce like my parents did. I’m going to have as many kids as I can love on, and I thought seven was that number, until we started having kids. Five. I was ready to tap out at four, but we went on and had five. For me, it’s a blessing because imagination is what gave birth to hope in that situation, not being stuck in the moment

WACOAN: Have long have you and Alexia been married?

Darryl: We’ve been married for 19 years. It’ll be 20 November 11.

WACOAN: What brought y’all to Waco and what keeps you in Waco?

Darryl: The short answer is it was a faith move. When I was in the Marine Corps, I was last stationed in Arizona. Once I got out, we chose to stay there for a little bit. Eventually, my wife got pregnant with our last child, and at that time, we felt this urge to relocate back to Texas. Hometown is Fort Worth, so we were thinking we wanted to be close to Fort Worth but not too close. So we settled in Austin. That was a faith move.

We had our kids. We kind of went through some of the things we went through in terms of homelessness at one point. But in prayer, we heard the spirit of God say it was time to move. Just inquiring, ‘OK. Where to? If we’re moving, where?’ We heard Waco. I knew for sure, Kevin, I heard wrong. Because for me, I felt like there was nothing in Waco that I knew of. After we had understood that it was clear that Waco was the spot we needed to go to, we packed up and left that same summer.

We came here in August of 2015. So it was a faith move. That’s what it was. And the thing that keeps us is really that same thing. We know that we’re here for a reason. We have developed some amazing friendships since being here. But we know there’s a work for us to do. Some of that work has been my nonprofit that I’ve done. We mentor at-risk youth. We started out just focusing on the young kings, the males, and then we understood there was a need for the young queens as well. And what we help them to do is become more responsible adults.

We want to equip them with the necessary tools and strategies to break those cycles of fatherlessness and poverty, much like I had experienced growing up. We do that through mentorship. During the summer, we have our leadership camps. Because of COVID-19, it’s been a challenge trying to get those camps going, simply because no one will open up their buildings. If I can have my way, we would have these camps right now, because I feel like with everything that’s going on, from COVID-19, the pandemic, to the racial injustices and social unrest, I truly believe this is a prime opportunity for us to get in the face of these young people, give them some answers, help them clarify what they’re seeing and what they’re hearing, and know how to navigate through that, instead of just sitting.

But we have summer camps that we put on for them. And then throughout the school year, we have weekly group mentoring sessions.

WACOAN: What’s the name of the nonprofit?

Darryl: It’s called The Size of a Man. It’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. I’m the executive director and the founder of the organization, but we also have other volunteer mentors that are there to assist.

WACOAN: Getting back to Austin for a second. How many kids did you have when you were homeless?

Darryl: All five.

WACOAN: How did you —

Darryl: How did we get there?

WACOAN: If you don’t mind.

Darryl: I don’t. I believe by us speaking on it, we can help someone else and that’s why I’m OK.

The way that we became homeless, honestly, I was thinking about my family and how that family time is so valuable that I wanted to maximize that. I wanted to position myself to where I can have control of my time and the income that we had coming in. I was working a full-time job, and I was working a part-time business. And I said, ‘You know what, I’m gonna go full-time with this business so that I can have more time. I don’t have somebody telling me when to clock in, when to clock out.’ Business was going pretty good, and then it turned upside down. Once I had left the [full-time] job, it turned upside down, and we found ourselves getting behind.

We got so far behind that we had to give up our place where we stayed. And we ended up moving to a shelter in Austin. The name of that organization is Foundation for the Homeless. How do we make it out of it? To answer that question, I began to humble myself. That’s now step number one, just to humble myself. Say, ‘You know what, D? You don’t have it. I know you think you do. I know you want your family to think you do, but right now, you don’t have it. You don’t have the answer to this. Go ahead and ask for help.’ And so that’s what we did. We went to ask for help.

Initially, my wife was reluctant, because she understood how most shelters worked. If we were to go in as a family, they weren’t going to accept us all. It was only going to be women and children usually, and the males would be wherever. And she didn’t want that. After doing our research, we found out that this particular place accepted the whole entire family and didn’t separate husband from family, so that was a blessing.

We spent six months there, kind of going from church to church each week, packing up every single week, unpacking. But we did it for six months, and we met some amazing people along the way. At that time, Alexia’s health wasn’t where it is now where she’s in a wheelchair. She was able to get around using a walker.

That’s really how we made it, just humbling ourselves and asking for help. Had we not done that, we wouldn’t have made it out. We really needed somebody else to help. And we weren’t looking for a handout. We were looking for a hand up. Can you help us out? We’ve fallen. We just need help.

WACOAN: Did you or your family take part in the protests in Waco?

Darryl: No, we haven’t. One of the junior mentors from the nonprofit organization called me up one Sunday, and said, ‘Hey, you coming out to the park?’ I said, ‘I’m at the park.’ He said, ‘No, we’re here at [Indian Spring] Park. They’re doing a protest.’ I didn’t even know about that. And so at that time, we were already engaged in what we were doing, and I felt it necessary for me to continue to spend that time with my family, so we didn’t participate in the protest.

However, when we were at the park, we saw some young men come up, probably 20-plus young men, middle-school, maybe one or two high school age, and we got to talk about some of the things that were going on recently in the news, like the George Floyd situation. We got to talking about some of the rioting that’s happening, things like that, and I was just trying to get a feel for their take on this. How do you see this? And we had some good conversations.

I feel like I’m able to best contribute in that way, being more hands-on versus doing the protest. I don’t think anything is wrong with the protest, I just feel like once we do the protest, there’s still work to be done beyond that, and that’s planting seeds, watering seeds, in the lives of people, especially the youth. And that’s where my heart is.

WACOAN: How do you talk to your children about things like the death of George Floyd and shootings by police of young, unarmed usually black males?

Darryl: I think the biggest thing is I don’t hide the fact that that’s happening. I’m transparent about that. I expose them to some of that that’s out there. One, so they’re not caught off guard. I want them to be aware, but, two, so it can be a teaching moment. What can we do in this situation?

One of the things that I do stress from time to time, if I’m talking to a young man of color, I will oftentimes bring up this statement: You understand that in some people’s eyes, you already have two strikes against you. It’s not everybody, but in some people’s eyes, you already have two strikes against you. One is your skin color and the fact that you’re a male. Take it or leave it, it’s just the way some people think. But that’s not an excuse for you to treat anybody any kind of way. First, you have to show yourself respect. You have to have that dignity in order for you to deserve respect from others. Understand that. If you do that, most times, you’re going to get respect back. But there are situations like in the case of George Floyd, where I don’t care how much respect you show, people are going to be ignorant and hateful. People are just going to be ignorant and hateful and they’re not going to give you their respect. And so those are the kinds of conversations I have with my sons.

First of all, know that you’ve got some ugly people out there. Second, continue to show yourself dignity. Whatever you do, do it with honor. So when you’re approached by an officer, please don’t think that all officers are corrupt or all officers are racist or whatever the case is. Don’t think that. Because now what happens, you start to react in that way their slighted stance. That’s my message to them.

But other than that, they understand that it does hurt. But then we go back to our belief, which is in Christ. No matter hateful people may be, our job is not to hate them back. That’s not our job. Our job is still to love them, is still to pray for them and pray that they do have a change of heart. In the same breath, we want to pray for wisdom on how to navigate ourselves when we’re actually in that situation, because I can’t really tell them exactly how to conduct themselves. It’s going to be based on that particular situation. I don’t give them a cookie-cutter answer, but we do fall back on our Christian values and we do go back to whatever you do, do with a sense of honor.

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