Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone handles them in the same way. It took me a long time to handle my mistakes in the manner that have allowed me to go on living my life while trying to be a positive impact in other people’s lives. As my journey continues, I had a moment yesterday that I will forever cherish. As one of the youth that I have grown to love and admire the past 5 years was speaking at church, she spoke with such beauty and inspiration, it made me so proud to be a part of her life. Then she surprised me. At the end of her speech, she thanked me, she thanked me for being a positive influence in her life. Her words went straight to my heart and I welled up with so much joy. It made me thankful that for everything I have been through in life, I have had a positive impact on another life that I love and cherish.
While I sat there and listened to the rest of the service, I obviously beamed with pride but I also thought about how much her and the other youth have actually had more of positive impact on my life then they will ever know. Knowing someone for 5 years and only being sober for 2 of them, makes it easy to realize that for the first 3 years I was struggling pretty heavily with my addiction. For the last few years of my drinking I couldn’t wait for Wednesday nights because when I walked into church I was safe. I got to be me and all the legal bullshit and heartache that surrounded my life at the time was left at the door. These kids didn’t care about any of it and it wasn’t about me. They just wanted to chuck dodgeballs at my head and share the highs and lows of their personal lives in a place where they weren’t judged for being honest. I was not any different, I did not want to be judged either and even when I first told my story, I received nothing but love and respect from each and every one of them.
To the young lady who handled herself with such grace yesterday, thank you. Thank you for being you and for making me a better man today. Now that I have a son and a daughter, I see these teenagers and wonder which ones my kids may be like. I could only hope that my daughter handles herself in the same manner that many of you young ladies handle yourselves and that my son has the same drive as many of you young men.
Each year, seniors venture off into the real world and it makes me sad. I know I am a little selfish at the same time because it mainly makes me sad because I do not get to see them every week anymore. This group of seniors is extra special to me just because I have spent time with them throughout their entire high school years and have watched them grow into who they are today. They have also spent time with me through my addiction and well into my sobriety. I will miss them all dearly but I have faith that they will succeed. Even though this group cannot and will not ever be replaced, there will be another group of freshman coming in with just as many stories and experiences to share and I can only hope when they become seniors, they can look back and think that I also have had a positive impact on their lives as well.
One thing that I never realized as a teenager is that adults can be influenced by young people. To all of the youth at my church, thank you for influencing my life. And to the parents of these children, you should all be very proud, you have some awesome kids.