One day seven years ago, District of Columbia cab driver Samuel Ross came home with a lot on his mind. His rent was three months behind, there was no money to buy food for his four children and his affections had drifted from his wife to another woman.
Ross, then 27, decided to escape the mounting pressures of life by leaving home, abandoning his wife and children and moving in with "the other woman."
Up to that point, the story of Samuel Ross, 34, closely resembles that of other men across the country who each year desert their family responsibilities.
But with Ross there is a note of distinction. Four years after he walked out, Ross decided to come back and take care of his family, which by then was surviving on welfare.
Ross recently told a visitor to his Southeast Washington apartment of the four-year odyssey that took him full circle through adultery and a bout with a serious drinking problem to conversion to Christianity and his eventual return to his family. He now drives a cab and works as a clerk typist for the D.C. public schools.
"When we first got married everything was fine," said Ross, who sat on a couch beside wife Ethel, 29. "Then I started messing around with other women and that began to hurt my marriage. I could see it and my wife could see it.
"But it seems that I was hooked on the things out there in the world," added Ross. "I couldn't find happiness at home."
Ross said his frustrations eventually led him to excessive drinking, expensive gambling and the decision to pursue an adulterous relationship with another woman in Washington.
For a while, Ross said, he enjoyed his new life. But at the beginning of each month, he said his wife - who would contact him at the cab company where he worked - still demanded that he give her money to help support the family that by then was on welfare.
"I didn't want to do that. I had hatred in my heart towards my wife and I didn't want any part of her," said Ross. For a brief period, he said, he did send a few dollars home, but soon decided not to send anything.
"What I really missed was my children," he said. "Once I entertained the thought of trying to take the children away from my wife, but I changed my mind."
Ross said that occasionally Mrs. Ross would permit some of the children to spend the weekend with him and his new companion.
"My oldest son, Anthony, used to come over and every time I saw him he'd say, 'Daddy, I want you to come home. When are you coming home?,'" Ross recalled. "I would tell him I wasn't coming back, that I was better off where I was.
"During this period, I began to drink heavier and heavier because I began to think about how in my life-time I had wanted a large family, God gave me a wife, that loved children and I left them," Ross said.
"I had children that I really loved, but things just weren't working out. As I continued looking toward the future, I realized I still wanted a family and I wanted a home, maybe a big yard for (the children) to play in and we all could enjoy each other together," he said.
While he was thinking about his future, Ross said he saw his dreams crumble. "I was just as miserable as I could be inside," he said. "My drinking habit got worse. I was smoking 'herb' (marijuana). I was seeking satisfaction. I had a craving in my heart that was longing to be satisfied."
One day, Ross said he knelt in front of a green couch and prayed. "I began to talk to the Lord, I said, 'I'm tired. My heart is aching. I don't have any love, peace or happiness.'
"I said, 'Lord, if you come into my heart and just take away this miserable feeling, I'll do anything you want me to . I won't drink, smoke, curse, lie, commit adultery . . . I named every sin I knew I had ever committed," Ross said.
"When I finished," he said, "I got up and looked out of the apartment window. The whole world was glowing. The room was glowing. Everything looked new. I noticed there was such a settleness and peace inside of me - there was joy. I was just bubbling."
A short time before, Ross said he had sent his son, Anthony, to a summer camp operated by Central Union Mission, a Christian mission in downtown Washington. During the week at camp, Ross said his son accepted Jesus Christ.
Ross said that after his spiritual rebirth he decided to pick up his son, buy him some clothes, take him to church, come with him back home and, if his wife would allow it, he would stay.
"I went and got (Anthony) and we sat out in front of Morton's (Department Store) at Minnesota and Penn until they opened," he said. "I bought him a suit and we went to church."
Ross then went with his son to the apartment where his family then lived.
"When we walked through the door, my wife came to the door. I said, 'I want to come back, if you'll have me back.' She said, 'OK, the kids want you back anyway,'" recalled Ross, who has six children ages 3 through 14.
"I had no longer walked across the door sill when my son, standing right beside me, said, 'This is what I've been praying for.'"
"That didn't mean anything to me then, but as I look back at the time my son went to camp and came back saved and all of the times he'd pleaded with me to come back home, I attribute my salvation to prayers that my 9-year-old son prayed," Ross said.
As soon as he returned home, Ross said he wanted to take his family off welfare. "I knew the responsibility was mine and I was ready to accept it," he said. "But my wife wasn't ready. I had to wait for God to change things so she could trust me again."
Eventually, Ross said his wife did trust him again. They gradually began to rebuild their relationship. Two months after he returned home, his wife converted to Christianity. Then, one by one, his six children accepted the faith.
Every day after he leaves his full-time job as a clerk typist, Ross said he drives a taxi parttime. But he no longer drives only for the money. He has developed what he calls a "cab ministry," in which he tells his passengers about his new-found faith and how they can share it.
"As I start out with my cab, I ask the Lord to lead me, prepare the hearts of the people and speak to them through me," Ross said. "My No. 1 ambition now is to tell people about the Lord. One week recently, seven or eight people came to know the Lord right in my cab."