Anthony Morrow

First Posted 09-Sep-2014

Billy Ray Harris
Billy Ray Harris © NBC News

First, I don’t have to do this. I barely knew the man. If I was like many, I could live my life having never spoken of or thought of him again. Thousands saw this man walking up Broad street or outside the Lombardy Street Starbucks as he lived his final years outside, having to make his way unusually since usually had abandoned him for another more attractive folk.

Some, who knew him, walked away from relationships with him because he clashed with their “spose-to’s”—He ‘spose to get a job, get a house, get a life (he had a life, not the life many wanted for him, maybe not the life he would have liked, but a life none-the-less). Some, like me, knew him a little and learned what a sweetheart he was once you got past the initial grumpy bear bit.

I don’t have to give an obit for a faceless homeless man who for some, represents a sad story of a backslid man who fell away from Christ and died alone and penniless. I want to though, and I hope by the end you’ll understand that he was not anonymous or pitiable to us who knew him. Anthony Murro would growl at you first before letting you see that he was a softy at heart. He drove a truck so many miles he could’ve hauled Jesus’ carpentry shop to heaven and back a couple times.

I knew him because I shared shelter space with him last winter. To many he was another of the hundreds that gravitate to Richmond’s Monroe Park giving the good folk a reason to step a little quicker or cross the street. He was a bum, one of those some preachers point to as a reason to get right with Jesus because it could happen to you, too.

Except . . . God loved, loves Anthony Murro. God provided and provides for him and the many other homeless in Richmond, Va., and other places around this country. True, from one way of viewing the world, he is a sad story. You only had to see him smile or hear him tell you he was just kidding to know that he is a reason to praise God for what he did to take care of Tony.

I believe, contrary to the preachers who shake their finger at the congregation and cite Tony as a cautionary tale, that he is in heaven, blessed and free of pain. Tony helped me understand grace isn’t just something you mutter before eating dinner nor is it something that is doled out like holiday treats to the good Christians who can still recite their catechism and never missed a Sunday.

Grace is also down in the streets, among the drunks, the prostitutes, the destitute, desperate, crazy, addicted, messed up people who we have a hard time with because they can’t or won’t fit our idea of good behavior. Grace means that Tony is in heaven and life doesn’t hurt anymore. Grace and mercy is for us, the cranky people who fuss and act out and are hard to love. It is in loving those who are hard to love that we expand our hearts and become better able to love those who we enjoy loving. Tony blessed me and for the blessings he gave me I want to thank him and those around him who made it possible for me to know him. Thank you Tony, god bless and rest in peace.