Artist's Lane: Second chances and the next generation


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

I stood at the front of the courtroom and pleaded the young man’s case. When asked who will speak for him, I said, “I will. I have known this young man since he was 10 years old. He’s a sweet boy. Now 16 in high school, I know he’s had scraps with the law, but he hasn’t been given a fair chance in this world.”

I heard from the bench, “Who will take him home? He is underage and we don’t have a place for him.”

His mother, who was wearing an ankle tracker, had bounced in and out of jail many times and still struggled with her own addictions. All the same, she cried out vehemently, “I want to take him home with me.”

The judge said to her, “It’s not a good environment. He will be right back in front of me.”

Then he looked at me and said, “Is there any one in the courtroom who will be responsible for him?”

I muttered and shook my head, “I can’t. This morning before I entered the courthouse, my husband and I talked. Being a very practical man, he said, ‘We can’t take care of him. We are not in a position to help him at this point in our lives.’”

I begged my Sweet Al, but knew he was right. How would we get him back and forth to school? How would we deal with the bad company he was keeping? How could we help him?

The court ruled and closed the case. “Since there isn’t anyone to take care of this boy, I must recommend him to the juvenile center in Durango. There is no other place for him to go.”

I left the courthouse torn up inside. We could have given him a clean bed at the very least. I prayed and prayed for this child. In sincerity, I probably prayed more for me. I felt like I had let him down. I stood and vouched for him, but then I let the courts do what they willed.

Eight years later, Al and I were watching a movie that took me right back to how I felt all those years ago. In it, a young man would be bounced from place to place because his only worth was the things only eyes could see. I couldn’t help but feel for the character, knowing his heart beheld something greater than his actions displayed. And with those feelings, my own wrestle with reconciliation over where a youth, now probably 24 years of age, is in life.

I shared my thoughts about the movie and conversations I had with my Sweet Al, with our son. I told him about the time I appeared in court to vouch for the troubled teen and how much I lamented not being able to course correct the young man.

Our son said that he had picked up someone who was down and out, and dropped him off at what he later found to be a known drug den. He has now befriended this person, providing him clothes and nonjudgmental conversation. All of this as a means of what he hopes will one day be a redirection of his path.

While the teen in the courtroom all those years ago and the man my son is helping today are not the same person, the scenario is the same. Who knows, maybe my son is getting the chance to do something that I wasn’t able to or even capable of doing.

Is it for the next generation to come alongside and complete what we have started?

I read a phrase this week that said, “Spiritual blessings work in pluralities and bear the property of transcendence.” When we talk about God’s life, love and his mercies, we know that what we have been given transcends and extends beyond us. His good work transcends from everlasting to everlasting.

Maybe God picked up the baton and handed it to our son: a desire to look beyond what others see, to see inside the heart of a person in need. It doesn’t necessarily fill the void I feel by not seeing the fruits of my labor come to fruition. But, there is comfort knowing God’s timing is not dictated by my timeline, and will know completeness through his own.

Final brushstroke: We all have fallen and scraped our knee or twisted an ankle. Fortunately, there are those who come alongside us to lift us up when we are down. As for my inability to help the young man facing the detention home? The situation never felt completed until I realized that God’s plan is for the next generation to finish what was started, even if through different circumstances.