[Special Episode]: Tony - Abuse, AIDS, and Compassion

(click the button below to play the Special Episode - run time 14 minutes)

Growing up in a home with six foster brothers and sisters who regularly rotated in and out of my life influenced my comfort in fluid environments.  Over the course of my young life I shared a house with dozens of brothers and sisters, for varying periods of time.  Many of them experienced trauma and attempted as best they know how to cope with its effects while we lived together - that had a profound impact on me.  One of my foster brothers was a little boy named Tony, and his life left an imprint that shaped why I am fighting so hard for system change to support – and protect – our children.

In this episode I depart from the usual question and answer format to tell a story about Tony’s life.  I explain the growing pains of grappling with physical deformities that made every interaction for him very different than what most children experience.  Tony’s life was both bright and full of life, and unbearably sad and tragic. Having a brother who dealt with so much, who needed so much care from such an early age, implanted a desire in me to fight for a society that is more nurturing and more protective of our young people.

As I have grown up and reflected on the formative experiences created by having a brother like Tony, I also realize that we must step in and be intentional about breaking cycles of poverty and violence in the home if we are to take seriously a commitment to giving every person real opportunity. My life experiences created in me a desire for system change from the earliest moments before a child is even born. Tony’s best chance at a different life started with supporting his parents before he was born and we have proof that early intervention can prevent the life he was forced to lead. Tony’s life was an important lesson for me as I’ve become an advocate for children, but he was also just my little brother.

Omar Passons