Easter and Passover are upon us. For Jews and Christians everywhere, it is a season of hope. With all of the violence, terror, bloodshed and scandals afoot, a little hope is an urgent need for all of us.
Within our culture, it is easy to become jaded and cynical. The world is not nice. People can be very heartless and ruthless. However, in the midst of all that darkness are countless people who bless our community with their generosity, their time, their talent and their positive spirit.
Every day I am fortunate to cross paths with countless men and women who give from their hearts, never looking for anything in return. They are the rich and the famous and the not so rich and not so famous.
Having the privilege on a regular basis of speaking in local high schools and colleges, I am continuously amazed at the unconditional generosity of our young. There is a genuine spirit of service and reaching out to others, without any expectation of recompense, that is refreshing.
A young man in his late teens developed a serious addiction problem when he was in high school. Like many of his peers, he was able to mask it for a long time. He beat the system and graduated with his high school diploma.
Shortly after high school graduation, his life became unmanageable and out of control. Things got so bad that CM's parents felt compelled to have their son leave home. They were devastated, but he resisted any kind of treatment. He kept saying that he was fine. He accused his parents of overreacting. They felt guilty because they were in denial for so long!
After a number of weeks on the street, feeling like he had hit rock bottom, CM reached out for help. He stayed for a brief period of time at a shelter for the homeless. It was clean and safe, but a rude awakening for this eighteen year old who thought he knew everything. He allowed the staff to guide him along a path of recovery.
He voluntarily moved into a community residence program. He began the long road of working on grounded recovery and healing his fractured relationship with his parents.
The road for this young man has been long, but most life giving. His recovery is strong, but as he will immediately say, it is one day at a time. His reconciliation with his parents has been ongoing. Their dynamic is stronger than it has ever been. He went back to school and in January graduated with a bachelor's degree from a highly regarded liberal arts school.
Since entering recovery, CM has done much soul searching. He realized, with the support of the "BW" network and his counselors, that the major missing piece in his personal life was that he lacked a personal relationship with God.
Throughout his journey, that has certainly had its peaks and valleys, CM reclaimed his Catholic faith. As he would say, "I choose to be a Catholic Christian, and not merely because it was something I was born into."
His renewed faith and revived spirituality led him to volunteer for a year working at a spirituality center for young people in upstate New York. That positive experience empowered him to take a youth ministry job on the South Shore, which he kept until he graduated from college.
Along this journey of renewal and self-discovery, CM met his soul mate. They met at college and share many of the same dreams and aspirations. Hopefully, they will be married in mid-Spring.
Probably the most telling part of this story of hope is that CM recently returned to the place that he credits with saving his life. He works full time for the shelter that afforded him hospitality and hope when he felt he had none.
In addition to being a full time worker in this shelter, CM is a tremendous reminder to his colleagues and those who come to this place for support and guidance, that hope does live and transform lives.
After his wedding in mid-Spring and when his life settles down, CM hopes to begin a graduate program for social work at one of our local universities. He has expressed the desire to make his career one dedicated to working with those who are poor and living on the edge. Based on his own life experience and the training he has received and will receive in the future, CM believes that he can make a difference that counts.
People like CM remind me that the world does have tremendous potential. He is a young man who grew up in a middle class family within our community. He could have gotten lost in the cracks of indifference and recklessness, but he did not!
Thanks to many hands and hearts and an openness he discovered from within, CM had a transformation that has made all the difference.
As we celebrate this season of hope and untapped possibilities, we need to be mindful that within every human heart lies the potential for transformation and new beginnings.
There is a wonderful little book that I have my college students read every term. It is entitled "Hope for the Flowers," by Trina Paulus. It is the story of two caterpillars in their quest to become butterflies. On a deeper level, it is really a wonderful story about life and how we start out as caterpillars and move into cocoons.
Too many of us get stuck in our cocoons, because we are afraid to risk spinning out and becoming that beautiful winged creature the butterfly.
What I love about this story is that it underscores that we all have the potential to fly and become butterflies.