I have screwed up countless times in my life. I am good for a mis-step, or a bad choice, or a mistake. And that’s okay. A couple of nights a week, I teach lessons from a course called Real Essentials to a group of youths in Rockdale County who have been deemed by society as delinquent based on choices they’ve made. These lessons vary. We cover topics like conflict resolution, abuse in dating relationships, teen pregnancy and STDs. On any given night, you can find me there expounding on the implications of premarital sex and substance abuse and those kids lap it because I make it plain. I have been where they are. Last Tuesday one of the kids said, “Mr. Young, what do you know about getting arrested? Aren’t you a deacon or something?” I am not ashamed to say the class got a good laugh out of his joke. I am also not ashamed of my response, “I know that it’s cold. I know that concrete wasn’t meant to be a mattress. I know that the food sucks but if you use it right, you can get almost anything- it’s a form of currency. I know that strip searches, where you have to squat and cough, are demeaning and degrading. And I also know how the cold steel of handcuffs clinch your wrist like skinny jeans hug thighs.” The room fell silent. I continued, “To this point, I have lived a life with beginnings very similar to yours. And the only difference, outside of age, is that one day I chose to make better choices. Life is never going to be perfect. You can’t choose the hand you were dealt. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. But the goal, if you choose to accept it, is to be just a little bit better than you were yesterday.”
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