This past week, I was visiting the county jail and noticed a young man that I used to see in detention when he was a youth of seventeen. I remember this young man, because he and I had a chance to talk a bit back then.  At seventeen he had a child, and was trying to provide for his girlfriend and daughter. He had a hard time finding work, because of his past record of crime.  I remember him because we had a chance to sit and talk after he was released. I remember him because I have prayed for him over the past few years.  I also remember him, because I tried to reach out to mentor him, to find him a job, to help him get his life straight.  I saw the look in his eyes that made me think he was ready to change, but something held him back. He never moved forward. At seventeen, his path was set.

When I saw him in jail this past week, I told the officer that was with me that I recognized him. The officer said that this specific cell is for people with serious charges. Then all of a sudden, the young man saw me. With a big smile, he waved his hand as if he was happy to see me. Then the reality of where he was hit him, and the smile dropped. He was behind locked doors so I couldn’t talk to him. I threw my hands up as if to say what happened?  He lowered his head and shook it. You could read his body language and his gestures…he knew he was wrong. He knew there was no going back to seventeen and choosing differently. He knew his future now was prison. 

He was talking on the phone to someone at the visitor center.  I don’t know who he was talking to. Was it his girlfriend, a family member, or was it his daughter; his little girl that he wanted to make happy? This precious little girl will now grow up without her daddy.

My heart breaks for this young man. I know he was wrong to go after crime, and I believe he deserves whatever punishment is just. He had a choice, and he chose a path that is self-serving and deeply hurts others and society.  No, I don’t cry for his punishment, which is right. I cry for the waste of a life. I cry for the young man who will get old in prison. I cry for the girlfriend, left behind to raise a little girl all on her own.  I cry for the daughter who really won’t know her daddy, and if she does will live in embarrassment and shame.

Why do I go and reach out, if this is the result? Young men who won’t listen? Young men who will stay on their path to crime?  

I reach out, because at seventeen, someone reached out to me.