Thursday, March 11, 2010

Open Door Mission

It has become something of a tradition at St. Thomas for a speaker to deliver a rather sobering address to the upperclassmen on the eve of Spring Break, presumably to dispel any Bacchanalian plans from the boys’ minds. This year’s speaker, David, is a recovering drug addict and felon from the Open Door Mission. The organization’s web site describes the institution as “a faith-based recovery and rehabilitation shelter dedicated to transforming the lives of the addicted, destitute, homeless or disabled.” A teary-eyed David offered a cathartic recounting of his life’s many missed opportunities, terrible missteps, and frequent misfires.

David described a dysfunctional family life growing up that was characterized by a deep melancholy and lasting loneliness. Despite going to the best schools and having the world in front of him, David struggled to find meaning and fulfillment and eventually filled the void in his life with alcohol and drugs. After a brief recovery, he entered a long-term spiral of despair and self-destructive behavior when he killed a man after running a red light. He then found himself in and out of rehabilitation centers and prison over the next fourteen years. There were brief moments of happiness in which he met his wife and had two children, but he sacrificed even these glimpses of peace and tranquility for the bottle and the needle. He finally hit rock bottom at thirty when— divorced, alone, penniless, and without a friend in the world— he turned up at the Open Door Mission. With the help of God and the unconditional love of the volunteers at this center, David has his life back on track.

David’s testimonial struck a chord with me. I am astonished that a person who has experienced such incredible suffering can still see God’s hand in his life. That God never gave up on David is a stirring reminder of the amazing grace of our loving God. His witness probably touched the hearts of many of the boys for his honest and heartfelt message of hope. I know it touched mine. I called Jennifer during lunch to convey my gratitude for her role in my life and Anna’s. Talks like David’s really force you to stop and take stock of your life and to realize just how blessed you really are when it comes right down to it. I will pray for David, and I hope that I can emulate his faith, hope, and love in God, for I think the greatest danger for me personally is not that I might turn into an addict or convict, but that I might take Him for granted and even forget my utter dependence on His love. And that would be a misery beyond any in David’s testimonial.

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