Spreading joy – a young man’s journey
Did you ever meet someone that you wish you had known for a long time? Just one of those giant personalities that resonates warmth, a deep, rich belly laugh with a smile that CREST would be proud to feature in any advertisement. And a life story that defies the odds.
Tyrone Augustus works at the Block Island Grocery, and he leaves on Tuesday. He is Block Island’s loss.
An imposing man in top physical condition with a great beard, Augustus has been on the island via a J1 visa for the summer. His home is Jamaica where he will return, albeit slowly after visiting his aunt in New York, who will pick him up in Galilee, and perhaps his siblings and dad in Philadelphia. A dad he did not meet until he was 14.
The oldest in the family, Augustus’s story is one of nothing else but perseverance, accompanied by a beaming smile. It wasn’t always that way, as he recounts battling suicidal thoughts and severe depression in his early
teenage years. And as he gets set to leave Block Island he is so happy, so genuinely happy that he fought through those months and “found this place of joy. A place where people come to celebrate family events, laugh, dance and sing. It’s magic out here,” he says.
The best part of the job at the BIG, the year-rounders who are never in a hurry. “They first ask your name, then they ask about you, then eventually they get around to what they want at the deli or go through the checkout process, all the while the tourists grind their teeth waiting, and then magically join in the conversation. It’s like the stress goes out of the room and they get it.” So this is Block Island.
Augustus’s mom left early in life to move to Barbados to earn a living she could send back home to support the kids, and he was raised by his grandma and grandpa. The emotion that floods out with the story is palpable, you want to hug the big lug and say it’s perfectly fine to cry. Because he is so genuine, the story so remarkable.
He is attending Northern Caribbean University where he plans to graduate with a degree in education and then become a school principal in time. He was Student of the Year. There are few males in that role in Jamaica and
he feels he might serve as a role model for other males growing up where a promising future can always seem just out of reach.
In the meantime, he worked a gazillion hours on the island, substituting where needed in other businesses at night, saving his money for education. His cast-in-cement plan is to graduate debt-free. “Don’t get distracted, save, and finish school on time. I passed on a lot of opportunities to go out at night here,” he emphasized proudly.
He recounted his decision to come here saying all of his friends told him to pick a bigger city where he could blend in and feel more welcome. On his initial ferry ride over on a turbulent day, he found himself in the bathroom on the floor, fervently wishing he had listened to them. “My only thought was if I could stand up, it would be to simply launch myself overboard. I’m still traumatized by that first experience,” he says with a rich genuine laugh.
And now he is melancholy as he heads off. “I really love the people who live and work here. Every day you bump into them, help them in some small way. They thank you. I can get emotional quickly! You don’t find that in the big cities. I say thanks back.”