This is the second chapter in a three-part series on Marlon’s story.
Marlon returned to Michigan ready for prison.
“I finally decided to stop running and turn myself in,” he said.
What he found there was grace — the court only gave him a year and a half of unsupervised probation. Marlon stayed in addiction.
He was getting high every day from January to April next year. The drugs were all he had left. But then, something changed.
“April 10 was my last day of drug use,” he said. ” On April 13, I put on a backpack and took a cab over the bridge to the U.S. I got into Michigan and asked God for help. … I had no money, no nothing. I was packed for San Diego. And then I started walking. I was ready to start my new life.”
Marlon chose San Diego because he wanted to be somewhere warm, where he could sleep outside. He was no slouch — he could find a job easy enough — but housing would be hard to find.
“There were some nights it got so cold (before I had my jacket, and I only had shorts) that I had to walk overnight to stay warm,” he said. “I would just talk to myself, and talk to God, and think about my life.”
On the way to San Diego, Marlon often found churches where he could rest.
His eventual arrival in Colorado must have felt a little like the first settlers from the Great Plains when viewing the Rocky Mountains — ‘uh oh.’
San Diego wouldn’t come easy. In Colorado, the only way west was over the Continental Divide.
Rocky Mountain High
Once in Colorado Springs, Marlon was looking for a meal and maybe a good night’s sleep — so he made his way to Springs Rescue Mission.
The plan was still to head west toward San Diego, but he was in need of rest. When he got to the campus in downtown Colorado Springs, he ate a hot meal and found directions down to Albuquerque; and off he went.
But after three failed attempts, he felt exhausted and returned to the Mission for the night.
“I got up the next day, ready to conquer and get to Albuquerque,” he said. “But during breakfast, a guy in the New Life Program got up and said, ‘if there’s anyone in here who wants to start their new life the right way, then the New Life Program is here for you.’ And I had my head down in the back, but popped up and was like, ‘man, that’s me!’”
A Brand New Day
August 1, 2018 was a big day for Marlon; as he was accepted and welcomed into the New Life Program.
“When I got here , I looked at my badge, and it said Samaritan’s Kitchen,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What’s this?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s where you’re working for the program.’”
Marlon had sworn to never work in a kitchen when his mother died, so he confined himself to the dish tank. That didn’t fly. He had to step up — it wasn’t a choice.
Between time with his church community and work in the kitchen, Marlon even picked up the guitar again. He played every day. His fellow NLP brothers would sit down and listen most days; it gave them a chance to think and reflect.
As months went by, his melodies began to change — and so did Marlon.
He worked in Samaritan’s Kitchen, graduated the Mission Culinary Academy and got a job working a Phantom Canyon. Eventually, folks around the Mission took to calling him “Chef Marlon.” From Phantom Canyon, Marlon went on to a full-time job at the new Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Colorado Springs.
Marlon leaves his mark on everyone he meets. He’s a natural leader, but he doesn’t make himself the focus.
“The NLP has brought me up to be a leader,” he said. “Now, I get in front of people and I’m okay to talk. That’s what I love to do: encourage people and bring them in. … I tell them all, ‘perfection is not attainable. But while chasing perfection, you’re going to catch excellence. So do it every day. … By trying every day, and giving 100 percent every day, you’re excellent.”
Marlon’s speech pattern is saturated with humility and encouragement. It permeates his interactions and fills the cracks of dried-up places in others’ lives. Even the language around him shifts.
“I have these sayings that everyone says now: Alright, alright; It’s a beautiful thang; You gotta love it; and indeed that is,” he said. “I’m making an impact for that moment. And my mother used to tell me, she said, ‘Don’t ever think you’re going to save everyone. Shoot for impact. You gotta make an impact.’”
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