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“I decided that I wanted to die. I hadn’t seen my dad in 30 years so I took a trip to his house and knocked on the door. I told him that I was going to kill myself, but before I did, I was going to kill him first.”
This is was what Johnny said to me the night we first met. We had just become roommates in Fulton County jail and were clear outsiders to the rest of population. I was beaten up pretty bad and Johnny, well he was emotionally and psychologically ripped to shreds.
His core was shattered, his soul had vanished, and he was laying on the hard cold finish of rock bottom. It was clear that Johnny had fought wars that I have never seen or imagined. Yet, despite his emotional wounds, he was one of the most charismatic men I have ever met. There was something there, beneath the surface, that seemed locked away. It was as if a giant of a person was waiting to come out, but one wrong after the next prevented him from seeing or understanding his true potential.
I couldn’t help wondering what I would be like and where I would be if I had no one. No one on their way to bail me out of my stupid mistakes. No one who cared whether I lived or died. How much rage would I have? I spent my life battling wars that I had never seen. Wearing scars never deserved. I had anger and frustration with no validation. There are people with nothing to live for. And worse. Seemingly no hope.
Johnny told me that night that he thinks he could get back on track if he could just get out of the inner city. If he could just get some money together to get north and find a halfway house. I could find a place in seconds on my phone but Johnny had nothing. He couldn’t even find food on the outside let alone find his way to a safe place.
I vowed that night to help him. When he got out he’d get ahold of me and I’d get him north and find him the help that he needed.
Weeks went by before I finally saw Johnny again. I was on my way to work when he was all of sudden right in front of me. He was being arrested and put into the back of a police van. I came to the red light and stared out the window. I wanted to yell and let him know that I was there. I wanted to save him. I didn’t. I couldn’t. My mumbling wasn’t going to get him out of whatever he did and the last place I could afford to be was back in jail. My heart sank into my stomach knowing that he was going back there. A dark place behind so many walls, and guards, and process and despair. I assumed that he had stolen some food immediately after his departure, but I guess I’ll never know.
I never saw Johnny again. That was over 10 years ago. I have a beautiful family and life today because I had people that saved me and gave me chance after chance. We all fall. And we all need help getting up. I can only hope that Johnny kept pushing forward until he got the hand that he needed.
I like to believe that we are all like Johnny in some small way. We all have points in our lives where we feel hopeless yet we all have the potential to become way better than we or anyone else ever imagined. Some will hit one brick wall after another everywhere they look. I didn’t help Johnny, but I am hoping that I can help many others that are in need of a new road to travel, a new and fresh way of thinking, critical insights that could change and transform their world.
If you’re down, keep climbing. If you’re up, start bending over and offering a helping hand. No matter what, keep pushing forward and keep growing.
Love to all
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