This I Believe
Lemont sat across from me in the circle; the five other teenage boys, although no strangers to cruelty and suffering, sat in stunned silence. Lemont’s rasping voice continued:
“I’ve seen things that no 15-year old should see. My best friend was killed right in front of me. I’ve broken into houses and cars and robbed people. I’ve beat people ‘til they couldn’t get up. I even held a gun to the head of my friend’s mother–just to get his drugs. This is no kind of life, Mr. Jim!”
Late last year Lemont had held a gun to his own head, and while the test round had fired deafeningly into the night sky, the next three bullets, aimed for his brain, somehow failed to discharge. With a thought almost too incredulous to ponder, he hurled the handgun into the darkened lake. It was the same gun he had hastily retrieved from his car earlier that day, determined to end his father. It was then, when Lemont had stormed back to the argument, that he found his father on the living room floor, dying from a heart attack.
“I’ve hurt people, Mr. Jim,” he cried out, not hiding his shame. “And I killed my own father! I gave him that heart attack.”
Lemont’s peers sat speechless in the blast wave of his words. I ignored my impulse to be consoling. I had to be real or I would loose him. I needed this silence so I could listen to the pounding chambers of my heart.
I told him what I heard. It was in his voice. I was hearing someone who was absolutely determined to save his own humanity. I heard it in his yearning, in his knowing that there must be another to his pain.
Then I told him what I had seen and what I now believed; that people who take on the struggle to become whole, who call upon a power greater than themselves, and who join with others on this journey, find a great peace in the end.
“All I know is this, that you can trust this process,” I promised him. “You are already in the middle of it. Your fight for your humanity, your willingness to offer up the memories that haunt you, to try to do things differently, they all prove to me that you are on the right path. Just keep going. You can trust the process.”
Gradually, over the next several weeks, and with lots of help, Lemont’s bouts of argumentativeness, depression, and impulsive misbehavior diminished. He questioned his old beliefs and would declare aloud every glimmering truth that he found. He’d speak from his heart at the AA and NA meetings. He became a passionate leader among his peers, inspiring them to walk this glorious new path he’d found. His blissful smile became an ever-present reminder of how recovery works.
One day, during one of our sessions, Lemont told me what he had come to believe: “My father, he’s my angel. I can feel him like he’s right beside me.”
When we graduated Lemont from our treatment program a few months back, I told him he had given me a great gift; a more profound belief in the therapeutic process.
And now, when I think about Lemont, I remember the words he would often tell his peers as they struggled through their own darkness. “You can trust the process,” he’d promise them. “You can always trust the process.”
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