Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Anthony's Prayers

I first heard about Anthony from my mother in law.  Anthony was a coworker of hers at a pharmacy, who had always said he was writing a book.  Many people talk about their dreams but Anthony’s dream came true despite the hurdles he had to overcome.  A big hurdle being that he taught himself to read and write and has been writing prayers in a notebook ever since.  Anthony has a childlike faith that adults could learn a lesson from.  Anthony is mentally challenged and a bit of a savant.  He can remember dates and even what the weather was like on that day.

After reading my mother in law’s copy of the book I knew I had to have a copy of my own and to meet him in person.  Getting a hold of a copy of the book was harder than I thought it would be.  Anthony ‘s book kept on selling out at all of the local businesses.  After a few attempts I finally got my prize.

My prayer to meet Anthony came true about a month ago when someone from the local newspaper set up a time for me to meet him at The Bitter End, a local coffee shop.  Anthony was all smiles and very welcoming.

Anthony Torrone

He remembered my mother in law and her anniversary.  He made mention to her looking really young which she loved when I shared that with her later.

He has two other books he wants to publish.  One about being bullied and one about his time at a facility where he was abused.  The book shares a bit of his background in the facility.  He also shared of being bullied as a child and even remembered the date and time of the last painful incident May 23, 1978 at 3pm.

He shared of proving the doctors wrong who said he would be a vegetable.

I asked Anthony what he would want people to know about him.  He shared that he did it on his own, no school, homework , only Jesus helped him.  He wants everyone to know that God will always be with them.  In his book, are his simple, heartfelt prayers.  He writes in his journal everyday.

I also have to share that he has an amazing gift of creating art with LEGO bricks.  He shared that the legos are God’s patterns.  As I flipped through the pages of his book, I knew my boys would love to meet him because of their shared passion.

We purchased some lego’s for Anthony ‘s upcoming birthday and visited him about a month later at his home to deliver them.  He had shared at our first meeting that it would be fine to bring the boys by to see his work.  I also brought my mother in law as an insurance policy.  I knew he would remember her… and he did, along with the date of her anniversary.  Anthony welcomed us in and showed us some of his lego creations.


He has stacks of lego signs that he creates all over his home. He started creating them in the 1990’s.

Anthony Torrone LEGO art

Anthony Torrone LEGO art


He also has inventive items like a lego hand that moves and one of my boys favorite … a toilet with a lid that goes up and down.

LEGO art Anthony Torrone

On our way home in the car my boys were inspired to make new kinds of lego creations.  They began sharing of the new ideas that they wanted to try to create.  Anthony took the barrier off what they thought was possible.  Ironically, as children they didn’t notice anything different about Anthony.  They just saw a man who was a lego genius, who also had a cool book.  Maybe as adults we can learn from them not to be so quick to put labels on people and just accept them as they are.

While we were visiting Anthony, my husband was at an informational meeting to learn about how we could be involved and help acclimate the refugees who are coming to our city each month.  We didn’t realize how hard and lonely it can be for the many refugees who are put on a plane, not knowing the language, who have lost everything and everyone as they start over in a totally foreign culture.

Simple things like knowing how to turn on light switches in their apartment can be so foreign to someone who was living in a tent city on the other side of the world.  Two different refugees shared their heartbreaking stories. One of them had a traumatic story that began at the age of 9- the same age as my oldest son.  How naive and blessed we are to live in this country even with all of its flaws.

Below is the trailer for the documentary “God grew tired of us” that shows the difficult adjustment to several of the “lost boys” of Sudan , as young adults who came to America.

What struck me most about the documentary was how lonely the refugees are when they come to the United States.  They shared how they are surrounded by people and yet there is no sense of community.

Our  community alone received 600 refugees last year.

“Fewer than 1% of refugees are referred for resettlement in a foreign country. Of those that are resettled internationally, about 75,000 are brought to the US each year and assigned to local resettlement agencies.”

That’s 600 people each year in my city, who survived horrible turmoil in their home country and had to flee in order to survive. They need a friend and I never even gave much thought to what their traumatic experience would have been like before or the need they encounter while adapting to our culture.

At the meeting my husband learned that you can help by many different levels of involvement such as being a friend, giving rides to their job, medical appointments, helping them learn English, provide housing, and just being a community to call on in crises or time of need.

The Greatest command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. So who is our neighbor?

Maybe we could learn a lesson or two from loving our neighbors from the Mr. Rodgers theme song

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,

A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,

A neighborly day for a beauty,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,

Since we’re together, we might as well say,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please,

Won’t you please,

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/


A big part of Anthony’s dream of publishing a book coming true is credited to the support of Tramont family and the Grand Rapids Press.  They helped bring his dream to a reality and have shared his journey though the years.  Sharing life together through meals and visits.  Anthony lives alone but is a staple on the west side community of G.R. due to all of the relationships that he has with families and local businesses.

As we open our eyes to those around us, we have a choice to literally love those who are sharing our streets in our communities.  There are people around us all the time who desperately don’t want to be isolated in this world.  We can be apart of joining them in their journey to show them that they don’t have to walk this world alone.


*Want to know more about Anthony Torrone and buy his book? Check out his site Anthony ‘s Prayers.


**If you would like to learn more about helping a refugee adjust in your city check out Bethany Christian services for more information.



Finding Unexpected Holiday Cheer at Broadway Bar and Grill in Grand Rapids, MI

Unexpected Holiday Cheer Broadway Bar and Grill in Grand Rapids, MI

Recently, my family and I ate at a small corner restaurant and bar entirely covered in Christmas decor.  I found out about this little “Griswold delight” in an article from our local paper.  It immediately piqued my curiosity and I wanted to see for myself this creation of a collector whose accumulation started at the age of 4.  This labor of love begins after Halloween and stays up close to Valentine’s Day. The article shared that the owner was 4 years old when his parents got divorced and how he felt Christmas wasn’t as special as it should have been after that.  This was his way of trying to get back lost Christmases.

Broadway Bar and Grill

This is a place we normally would not have stopped at. It didn’t have the comfort or familiarity of a typical chain restaurant or popular tourist destination. It also wasn’t in an area of town that I’ve eaten at a lot.

Upon arrival we waited to be seated. The place was small and packed. Santa was taking pictures with kids and giving each of them a gift.


My husband and I had stopped in earlier that week to make sure it would be a family friendly visit. We then found out about the visit with Santa prepared just for the kids.

The workers had been prepping the kid’s gift bags earlier that week. There was a lot of thought and expense that went into each kids gift bag and I really appreciated that personal touch. Each child was also given a free kid’s meal of chicken nuggets, fries and a drink.

While waiting for our food we played “I spy” as we took in all of the detailed decor around us. There was soooo much to see and discover in every direction.

Broadway Bar and Grill

What was so impressive about this experience was the generous spirit of the owners and the workers.  You could tell this was not a place that was “in it for the money”.  The prices on the menu were low. There were no frills.  My husband and I enjoyed an olive burger with onion rings.

Broadway Bar and Grill

If you go to Broadway Bar and Grill you must get the appetizer of fried apple slices with carmel dip for dessert. It’s like eating an apple pie. It was soooooo good!

The atmosphere had a sense of community.  Most of the workers seemed to know or be connected to many of the customers who were there.  That’s what was so humbling that day.  As we left we had been blessed by people who didn’t have a ton but demonstrated loving their community with what they had, in a way that worked for them.  As we were paying our bill another worker brought out a huge bag of new hats and gloves to have the kids choose from.  I’m glad our family found some Christmas cheer in an unexpected location.  I encourage you to seek to find a small gem in your community.  I would love to hear stories of where you have found local holiday cheer near you.

If you live in Grand Rapids check out Broadway Bar and Grill.

Bring your kids on Sunday, December 18th for a gift, picture with Santa and free kids meals from 2-4.