Saturday, June 30, 2007


here at the orphanage, we work with all sorts of addicts.
my ministry is not restricted to just the two-wheeled variety.
growing up when i did, a child of the 60s and all that,
my peer group was on the cutting edge of all sorts of new things,
although not all of them turned out quite as expected.
a growing number of my old buddies have died or have done-
-some are still doing-
-hard time for their inability to know when to say when.
addictions and drug deaths are yet two more things that
the mostly reverend knows too well.
. . .
it was in this context that i ran into a couple of acquaintences recently.
one is a man who was just granted his last, second chance,
and another a man who got his last chance some years ago,
and who continues to make the most of it, helping others with theirs.
the first man had been sentenced to at least fifteen years in prison.
the best deal he could get was to admit being an habitual felon,
which was easy: he was.
his felony of choice was his drug of choice, meth.
but this last time, he was faced with more than a mandatory three years:
his "fifteen to discharge" could become a life sentence.
as a grim reminder of his reality, just this week, he saw a man
two years his junior die of a massive heart attack in the weight room.
like he needed another reminder of the error of his ways.
but during his last five months in prison,
he took advantage of some programs available to those who want the help.
he started working out, running, and taking care of his body.
he looks eight years yonger than when i first met him last september.
he got involved with a program, an interfaith program,
called "freedom house."
it's not really a drug rehab or treatment program,
but a place that teaches life values and living skills.
this man was a hard-core dope fiend:
his whole life was to get high.
freedom house volunteers meet with inmates and talk,
and get them to talk,
and share, and learn, from folks who have been there.
on the outside, they also offer a place to live, rides to and from work,
to and from treatment, and whatever else they might need.
it's not free, but self-sustaining.
they began by leasing one house, and charging residents an amount
which would cover the lease and utilities.
they now have seven houses in the metro area.
the success rate in this place is remarkably good.
. . .
it's one of those places that if the neighbors knew what was going on,
they'd freak:
"not in our back yard!"
here's what's going on:
these men are intensely monitored.
one slip, and they're back in prison for a long time.
but as long as they do what they're supposed to do,
they live in an environment that teaches them values that even
pete and i agree are essential to living in and contributing to society.
they just do it with a spiritual twist.
that's okay, because with the current political and social enviroment,
it's the only way a program like this will be tolerated in the system.
plus, it works.
the men learn to juggle all the things they've never had to juggle before:
getting and keeping a job, paying bills, being responsible,
interacting with their families, seeing their probation and parole officers,
going to classes and treatment, and all these and other things-
-while not getting high or otherwise breaking the law.
. . .
here's where the other acquaintance comes in.
he was in the same boat a few years ago.
maybe he wasn't as bad off, i can't say,
but he founded this program,
as his way to stay on top of his own things.
helping and keeping others straight
helps keep HIM straight.
it's his take on the "pay it forward" concept, although for these guys,
it's gonna be in "pay it back" mode, too,
for a long time.
i wish both these guys the absolute best.

1 comment:

Pete Basso said...

Now that was worth reading Kim. Great story!! Hope both of those guys continue on to accomplish great things in life.