I believe that we should never give up on someone, especially if they have given up on themselves.
Josh has been my friend for my whole life, at least ever since he was adopted by a family in my church. He was a crazy 4-year-old who didn’t know how to use silverware and had never known what it was to be loved by a family. His mother died suddenly of cancer when I was 12. He was 13. That was when the hardening started. One of the most sensitive, caring people in the world became distant, angry, and bitter. He had a new girlfriend every month. When he was 16, he was arrested and put on probation. To no ones surprise, he broke probation within a few weeks and got sent to a juvenile home for 6 months.
I knew Josh didn’t need another girlfriend; he didn’t need someone to preach at him. He needed someone to believe in him and someone who knew who he had been and wanted him to come back. I could be that for him. Phone calls and emails were not allowed, but snail mail was. I wrote my first letter on July 7thand my last on November 16. There were 105 in between – one every day, a constant reminder that someone back home cared that he was gone geographically and spiritually.
I wrote about old memories, Michael Phelps winning the 100 meter butterfly by 0.01 seconds in the Beijing Olympics, and his twin niece and nephew being born. I didn’t expect anything back or even know if he was allowed to write letters, but on August 9th, I got a letter in the mail. As soon as I started reading the familiar penciled handwriting on plain notebook paper, I knew my work had not been in vain. It was more encouraging than any letter I’ve ever received because it gave me a glimpse at the warm, sensitive heart that I had almost lost hope for.
I got another letter in October. In the first line, he said that every time he got a letter from me, it made him happy. Then at the end he said, “I again want to thank you, Hanna, for writing me. It gives me something to hope for, knowing that someone like you cares about someone like me.” With renewed determination and hope, I continued writing and sending pictures and newspaper articles until he returned home in November.
His life is still far from perfect, and the anger and hurt is still hiding the soft heart on the inside. But I know it is there, and I will never lose hope that someday the good in him will shine through again. People need to know that they are cared about, and I think the 107 letters got the point across. There is no feeling better than knowing I encouraged him when he needed encouragement most. I will never give up on him, and he knows it, and this I believe will bring him back.