“Hey Ms Susie! I’m sorry for letting you down. Honestly…” I stared at the Facebook message again in disbelief and pure hope that it was Juan. It had been over a year since I had heard from him and I feared he was either locked up again, or worse, had been killed. “Is this Juan?” I wrote back. “I have been praying for you!!” “Yes, this is me… I’m still free… had a few bumps in the road… but I’m still behaving. I’m so sorry.”
After a year in the Juvenile Detention Center and nine subsequent months in the Young Men About Change facility, I drove to pick up Juan. He had received that sentence from the judge instead of adult prison. It was a pure gift of grace with his record and offense and he knew it. Every visit we would sketch and chat while he ate hot fries chips, candy, Dr. Pepper and whatever else I had learned were his favorites from the vending machine. That’s what knowing someone means. It means you know that they like hot chips over salt and vinegar, Dr.
Pepper over Coke. He loves drawing, and as we sketched, we dreamed of the new man that was to be Juan. How the old had passed away with all of the bad influences, bad habits, bad choices. We had a plan. And we had a covenant. He asked me if I would always be his mentor. I said yes. He wanted to know about when I grew old. I said I was already pretty old, but the answer was again yes. He asked about when I was really, really old and couldn’t get out. I said that then it would be his turn. He would need to visit me since I would be “locked up.” And not only did I want a visit, I requested that he bring me a good coffee. We had each other’s backs. And then he disappeared.
“You don’t really keep vigil,” says Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart. “It keeps you suspended in awkward silence and dead air—desperate for anything at all to stir some hope out of these murky waters and make things vital again.” I had searched for Juan. I had texted his phone. Then his mom’s phone. Then his sister’s phone. The reVision case worker re-visited his
apartment, again and again until it became apparent that his family had moved. I prayed and would not give up. I searched the internet to see if he was arrested. I waited. I kept eyeing the Ebenezer of hope that was the praying hands sketch he drew for me. And then, just like that, he appeared in my messenger. And we begin again.
Perhaps he’s ready for a change after going down the same old wrong path this year. Perhaps he yearns for his life to matter to someone. Above all, I know that he wants to be loved. And I will love him. That’s my half of the covenant. I know that just as well as I know he like hot chips.