Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. Raymond LindquistIt was just a short email. 'Hey! It's me. I'm doing good. I've just been made shop-foreman. Life isn't perfect but it's sure better than it used to be. A few years ago if you would have told me where I would be today , I would have thought you to be the addict and not me.'
A short note to explain a long road away from prison and addictions and breaking down and busted up and climbing up out of the pit of despair he'd fallen into.
It's been a couple of years since I saw or heard from him. When I last saw him he had moved out of the homeless shelter where I work to a rooming house. Had a job. Had hope. I'd given him an old bicycle to get to it and he was peddling through downtown when he saw me and stopped to say hello and to tell me he was doing okay, still struggling with his addictions but working and taking it one day at a time..
That was two years ago. And now, this email. I was happy, overjoyed, thankful.
"I realized that there is opportunity for every one if you are willing to take a chance," he wrote. "Things are not 100% perfect , probably far from it...But compared to how I was living, well I won't compare because it was two different times with different circumstances."
I'd met him in a class I teach at the shelter. I was teaching what I know and so was he. He was teaching me about honesty and courage and humility. He was 34 and the two years at the shelter were the longest stretch in his life he'd ever been out of juvvie or prison or some kind of institution.
He didn't want to leave the shelter. "I like being institutionalized," he said. "I like the routine and the rules."
"What if... 'out there' is a possibility you just don't know about yet?" I asked him. "What if being in here is just a way to stay 'safe' and keep yourself from experiencing something new?"
He wasn't a 'bad' man. Just lost and angry and beaten down. Foster care. Juvvie. A life of addictions. He struggled to make sense of the nonsense that was his life and kept coming back to the places where he felt comfortable, where he fit in. He kept going back to jail because it was the only path he'd ever been on that kept him from falling down in a world he didn't understand.
He broke the law because it was the only thing he knew how to do. And then, he chose to take the leap. To believe there was something more for him than breaking the law and going to jail. He stepped out of his comfort zone and found himself on the other size of the crazy that had been his life cycle.
And in his choice to act out his courage instead of his fear, he found out, he didn't have to keep doing what he was doing and finding himself back in 'that place' where he never wanted to go again. He found out he could turn up, pay attention and be honest and caring of himself.
He's moved on. Life is better, not '100%' perfect but he's got a job, a place to live and a future he's looking forward to. He's proud of himself, proud of his accomplishments, proud of the fact he's picked himself up and found a path out of homelessness and addiction to being all he's meant to be where he's at today.
There's a lesson in his life for all of us.
Where we've been is nothing compared to where we can go when we let go of believing, where we're at is the only place where we are safe from falling backwards.
There are many directions to fall. Forwards. Backwards. Sideways. Upside down. Right-side up.
We choose our direction when we choose to let go of the familiar walls we lean on to keep ourselves from falling backwards. We choose our direction when we step forward without looking back at where we were, wishing we didn't have to go.
He's gone from the shelter. Gone on to live his life. And I'm happy and thankful and grateful. I'm blessed to be part of his journey and to have him as part of mine. He's given me the gift of knowing courage is just a step in a new direction. Courage is an essential part of this adventure called 'life'.