My wife and I currently have a 24-year-old houseguest in our retirement home. Needless to say, our relatively modest, but quiet and comfortable lifestyle, has been significantly altered. It was not something we asked for or were expecting. This young man, I’ll call him John though that’s not his real name, showed up on our doorstep unexpectedly about a month ago strung out on some kind of dope and extremely frightened. I have John’s permission to tell you a bit of his story, which is being repeated countless times across this country every day.
John is the son of a single mother who had her own problems when she was younger, most of them not her fault, but today is a reasonably responsible working citizen, but unable to handle John. John was blessed to have a sponsor, through his mother, who paid for him to attend a private, Christian, college-preparatory school with our son. John and our son were good friends until after they graduated and John began to explore the dark world that surrounds us everywhere in this country. Our son went on to college and mostly lost contact with John who got caught up in the world of drugs, alcohol, bars, strip clubs, illicit sex, dope dealers and pushers, etc.
By the time he showed up on our doorstep, John already had two criminal offenses, one of them a felony obstruction of a police officer and was potentially facing serious jail time. He also was very afraid of some of the major drug dealers he had been selling for and the people he had been temporarily staying with–one of a very long string of such temporary places. They were hosting him only because he easily could get them illicit drugs. He had been in a whole string of such “homes” from Atlanta, GA to Miami, FL (major portions of both cities devastated, dope-infested “hoods” where a reinforced infantry battalion would take casualties if it went there after dark, much less an honest cop) and back to Georgia again.
After the first night in our house, when he slept in a recliner in our living room with a knife purloined from the kitchen, we put him into our one spare bedroom, which also doubles as my office. He arrived on Friday evening and we took him to church with us–where I’m the pastor–on Sunday. I made some calls and found a homeless shelter in our small city and made arrangements for him to stay there. However, when I dropped him there on Monday I found the shelter requires residents to leave at 8 a.m. each day and they can’t return until 5 p.m. In other words, it turns them right back out into the streets from which most of them came, and from whence John indicated to us he was trying to escape. I called my wife before I got home and with her agreement, turned around and went back and picked him up 20 minutes after I had dropped him off.
Over the next three days, we got him cleaned up–dried out, haircut, shave, etc.–and I took him looking for an honest job. Fortunately during his four or five years on the streets he had had various short-term jobs with different landscape companies. We got him a job with one such firm the first day out. Since then he has been working steadily for that company, which is privately owned and seems responsibly, honestly and cleanly run. I have to drive him to and from work, to and from his probation officers (he now has two) and to and from court. Last Friday, after showing a much cleaned-up young man to the judge, the district attorney, with the judge’s agreement, reduced the felony to a misdemeanor and praised John for having started the 12-step counseling program in which we got him enrolled.
Having been a police beat reporter for a large newspaper and a special police officer some 40 years ago, I have seen a lot of the underworld John describes to us and wasn’t surprised by it, though it obviously has gotten much bigger and much worse in those 40 years. As John has told us about his experiences in it, I have ever-greater concerns for our society. Drugs, illicit sex, violence and crimes are rampant out there. John knows; he was involved in all of it. And, it is growing exponentially, sucking ever more young people into it daily. Music, movies, radio and television glorify it and recruit for it. John tells me Rap music is particularly bad with Hollywood using it to promote various forms of dope use and other destructive behaviors. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never listened to Rap, but I do know about the slime poured out of Hollywood and freely available on the Internet and television.
As we all know, such behavior penetrates all levels of our society, aided and abetted–and even participated in–by some of our “leaders” in Washington, D.C. Our society is going down the drain rapidly and the vast underworld of which John was a part gets larger and larger and more dangerous every day.
I have high hopes for John. He is saying and doing the things that give me hope–though I keep such a close watch on him that it would be relatively hard for him to stray. I explain to him regularly that he always will be an alcoholic and a dope addict–the long-term effects or addiction never go away. One misstep and he could be right back out there. But he also can be a recovered alcoholic and drug addict if he continues honest work, going to church and staying far away from that alternate society so glorified by Hollywood, music makers and even some elements of our government. “Their” society is going to hell in a hand-basket, but there is hope for a few individuals, like young John. Please pray for him and the uncounted millions out there who haven’t yet had the courage, or the fear, to turn away from it.