The second edition of our “Dinner With A Stranger” project features a homeless man by the name of Dwayne. He’s 50 years old, and an ex-Hell’s Angel’s member from Toronto.
Usually, when you hear the words “Hell’s Angels,” you think of the bravado, the showmanship, and the violence that is associated with the name, but not in this particular case — not even close. Instead, we found a kind man who was not only a fascinating dinner companion, but a friend with a powerful message.
On 29 July 2011, Charity Guys members Darragh Grove-White, Ira Willey, and Derek Lau were fortunate enough to get to know this “stranger” who is probably unlike any poverty stricken man we’ve ever encountered in Victoria. To be honest, Dwayne himself doesn’t even realize how special he is.
At the early age of 15, Dwayne was already involved in ruthless, organized crime. Not many of us can imagine what it’s like to experience the destruction that goes along with drug trade, extortion, and gun-running, but Dwayne knew first-hand.
“It was hard. But they protected me,” said Dwayne of his family and fellow gang members. At the time, violence was all that he knew and Dwayne spent the next 18 years of his life in and out of prison for various crimes, all in which he knew were wrong. Not surprisingly, drug addiction played a role. But eventually, Dwayne was able to find answers in religion. “I found God. He’s the reason why I’m here right now, and he’s touching all of us right here at this table,” said Dwayne. “I don’t care if you guys believe in him or not — but I do. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d probably be dead.”
To be honest, Dwayne was just a regular guy that was thrown into an extremely unfavourable situation, but he believes that after 17 years of living on and off the streets, he is now a better man — and he has a loving wife of three years to prove it.
But the most powerful message Dwayne had for us?
“I feel safe with you guys. The streets? They’ll eat you up sometimes,” said Dwayne. “But what made my day wasn’t the fact that you took me out for dinner, it was the fact that you came up to me and said ‘Hi. How are you?’ That’s when I felt safe.”
We packed up the leftovers of our dinner and gave them to Dwayne. He thanked us. But as he was leaving, he took the box of leftovers and gave it to a homeless woman that just so happened to pass by us.
Usually the greatest of messages are disguised in simplicity. And sometimes, the simplest of gestures send the greatest message.