There was a young man, let’s call him D. D was having a hard time. I won’t go into the history, but his childhood had been mixed. He was loved, but he didn’t know how to accept the love and more than that, the people who loved him didn’t know how to show it. There was a whole load of love, but somehow it didn’t connect.
At school, D started misbehaving, being mouthy and aggressive. Drink and drugs became part of his life and his education took a hit. After a long period of suffering all round he was kicked out of home and ended up in a hostel. Surrounded by people a little like him his behaviour was reinforced and things went on a downward spiral. Violence, brushes with the authorities, debt all joined in the mix. It was a sad, sad mess.
I knew this young man as a kid. He was bright, precociously intelligent, caring, funny and almost boringly stable. Years later, when I met him again as a young man, he was hollow, lost, inarticulate and quite frankly pathetic.
Five years ago I welcomed D into my house. Not for a drink, not for dinner, but for as long as he needed to be there. His mum drove him up to us. I can remember that day with an alarming clarity that alludes me most of the time these days. It was awkward, I had kids, but I didn’t have a teenager. Now I had both. I cooked, but I hadn’t realised how little appetite he now had. I remember we watched the Champions League together Chelsea Valencia, when we should have been watching Man U Roma.
I can’t say it was easy, there were good times and bad. He was taking medication to help him kick the drink. He was dedicated and committed, but he couldn’t sleep. The months and years spent sleeping in the fug of alcoholic stupor had taken their toll. He applied for job after job with little success, his heart sank when he either heard nothing or heard more rejection. Then little by little the chinks of light started to show.
D got a job working at the same place as me not, I should add, because of me but because of his ability. It was mundane and it was boring but it was something. We contacted the companies that he owed money to and sorted his debts. He was great with the kids (although he scared the neighbours in our little rural village – who thought we were mad). But he missed his life and his friends, he missed his past.
The one day he disappeared.
I can’t tell you what happened to me. I can’t tell you what I thought, what I feared. I can’t tell you that I hoped, because quite frankly I didn’t.
But then he came back.
In retrospect this was a turning point to equal anything penned by the good and the great. I like to think that he stood and looked into the metaphorical mirror of life. I don’t know whether that was the case. If you meet him you can ask him for me.
And from the lows come the highs and from despair comes hope. He was clean and debt free. He had a job. It wasn’t a great job, but it was a job. Then to top it all, he had a girlfriend. She wasn’t new to his life, she was from his past, but she’d gone to University, gone to learn. But once again, she was there and there was fresh hope. And she wanted to come and be with him wherever he was.
There were people who believed in him, people who supported him, people who showed their love for him. And, for the first time, he was prepared to accept their love.
Let’s roll the clocks on five years. The world has changed, people have come and gone, we’ve loved, we’ve lost, we’ve fought, we’ve cried. D is working to help young people like the one that I welcomed into my home. He has incredible responsibility and works tirelessly and with a passion and commitment that can only come from the ills of the heart. He owns a beautiful flat, that he shares with the lovely lady that showed faith and commitment to him. He plays sport. He plays it well. And he has an amazing group of friends around him. He drinks, but these days only like any other young 20 something. He is in control.
Sadly I don’t see D as often as I would like, we both have busy lives. But we keep in contact whenever we can. If I’m honest, I hadn’t realised it was five years ago that the story started. Like most of you I was sat on the sofa on the Thursday before Easter, relaxing and feeling good about a four day weekend, when something caught my eye on my Facebook page.
“Next week it will have been 5 years since I left xxxxx,5 years since I left my past and started my future, a special thanks needs to go to two amazing people that gave me an opportunity and a chance, thank you xxxx and xxxx”
Quite frankly, I can say….the pleasure was all mine. We saw you grow from boy to man.
You were a wonderful boy, you’re becoming a wonderful man.
There is nothing more that we could ever ask from you.