For the next eight years, he felt like he'd made a profitable
choice. Only 30 years old, he was on the fast track to becoming an
ambassador. But turning 30 made him ask, "Do I want to be doing
this at 60?"
Then he developed a series of strange infections. Anthony was
ordered to rest or risk rupturing his spleen. Being ill made
Anthony not take his life for granted. He asked himself a simple
question: "If I were to make an early exit from this world, what
will I feel worst about not getting done?" It questioned the logic
of his plan, "do this, then that." Time might be too short for
After six months in bed, Anthony was finally pronounced well enough
to resume his life. He took a flight home - the end of this, the
beginning of that.
Five years later, I came to London to see Anthony. He was teaching
at a public secondary school in Walthamstow, and it's fair to say
that the school is not one where parents want their children. It
ranks in the bottom one or two percent nationally. Despite the
difficult circumstances, Anthony enjoyed working with the children
and was proud of every one of their accomplishments.
I arrived at a climactic point. He'd been teaching drama and
English to many of these 16-year-olds since they were 11, and
tomorrow, Anthony's students would go before the national examiners
and be judged. I watched their rehearsal. Several of the students
clearly had responded well to Anthony's five years of coaching,
while others clearly had not. Afterward he critiqued their spotty
effort. "You have a great deal of work remaining to put in, and
only one day to do so."
Was there any way this train wouldn't derail?
Was there any way that his best students wouldn't be dragged back
into the gutter by their classmates?
I thought of how my cabbie had described Walthamstow - "Those who
grow up here never leave."
His students ended up doing fine in their final exams. Half the
group obtained A grades. About 10 of his 45 students would go on to
take a performing arts course, and the others would continue their
studies in some fashion. They might leave Walthamstow after all.
But Anthony didn't want to be portrayed here as a role model.