( Advanced Level )
Joshua sits, waiting for his parole officer, reflecting on his choices as a youth. How the choices he made went terribly wrong. Ended up being incarcerated at the young age of fourteen.
Now he has the opportunity, to not undo the past, but to keep others from making the same choices as he did.
His release came a little earlier than expected. He had made a deal with the powers that be. Two and a half years shaved off his sentence if he agreed to be a mentor or a big brother figure for young adolescents in his neighborhood.
John, who has been a parole officer for over sixteen years, was on his way to pick up Joshua. He is all too familiar with the troubled youth of his city. Most came from single parent homes or born into families of crime.
He always told himself it was a vicious circle you cannot get out of. You need money and opportunities to succeed. Not many were given chances so they resorted to a life of crime. From petty theft to sale of drugs.
Upon arriving, John saw a very scared young man now. Not the cocky overconfident teenager who sat before him years ago. Something changes when you are sent to jail. You go into survival mode.
“Are you ready?” Joshua looked up. “Yeah I guess. I don’t know what they expect from me or what I should do.”
“Just be yourself and be honest. If the kids ask questions, be truthful. Let them know it is not worth it. Be their friend. Be their big brother. Some don’t have people who care about them.“
The car ride to the city youth center was quiet. Both Joshua and John lost in their thoughts. John was familiar with Joshua’s plight. His father left his mom, Evelyn, when he was seven.
She struggled with raising him alone. She wanted to leave the neighborhood to raise her son in a better environment but it never worked out.
Unfortunately, Joshua got caught up in life on the streets. Initially he wanted to earn extra money so his mother didn’t have to work so hard. He hated seeing his mom work twelve to fourteen hours a day to come home exhausted.
Selling drugs was the easiest answer for quick money. He was told to go to certain locations each time he took a job and the customers came to him. In the end he was apprehended and incarcerated.
Nearly forty-five minutes passed and the two pulled into a parking lot stopping in front of a small building where plywood covered openings, what were once windows. “Okay. We’re here.”
It had been awhile since Joshua had seen the old neighborhood. He was shocked to see how much more run down it looked. He let out a tremendous sigh and got out of the car.
John stood waiting for Joshua and ushered him to go ahead of him. As the two approached the door a group of younger kids ran out and gave him a hug. “Hi, Officer John,” they chanted one by one.
Whenever John had spare time he spent at this makeshift youth center. He played basketball and other activities with the kids. It gave the kids a chance to get off the streets and the temptations in the area that may lead to a life of crime.
The building didn’t have much inside. Whatever sports equipment or supplies they had were from John. He would set aside money each month to buy something new.
Sometimes the building was broken into and everything was taken. This never discouraged him from continuing on with what he did.
“Guys, I brought a friend with me today. He will be helping me here for a while. Everyone say hi to Joshua.”
“Hi, Joshua.” The oldest and tallest kid of the group, Seth, grabbed his hand. “Let’s go play basketball. I’ve been practicing my shots. I hope one day to play for the high school team, like my brother did.”
“He died before he graduated. My mom doesn’t want me to be stupid like my brother so I come here everyday after school and on weekends.”
Joshua thought to himself how matter-of-fact Seth said this. He could have ended up like Seth’s brother. It was a good thing he was caught. It was hard enough knowing what he put his mom through. She had raised him better.
“Sure, but let’s involve everyone. You be one captain and I will be the other. We will pick teams. Officer John will play too.”
John soaked in everything that he saw and heard. This was a great choice he suggested to the judge. He knew he saw something deep inside that tough guy exterior of Joshua’s.
He pleaded with the judge, “This kid deserves a chance. His mother raised him alone for years by herself. He was young and dumb. I see something in him that I hadn’t seen in others. Let him out on early release .”
“I will mentor him and keep an eye on him. He can, also, help me at the youth center. It seems I am getting more and more kids and it is difficult somedays to manage all of them.”
He was pleasantly surprised when the judge agreed. “I believe you know him better than me John. He will be under your supervision for two and a half years. It will be his parole stipulations.“
As the months passed by, Joshua found himself enjoying going to the center. Sometimes catching an earlier bus so John didn’t have to go out of his way to pick him up at his house.
He spoke to the kids quite openly about what he did and how he was arrested. He hoped this would keep others from making the same mistakes he made.
“There isn’t any reason to disrespect your mother or father, most of all yourself. If you want something, earn it don’t steal it. If it seems too easy then you are doing it the wrong way and it is probably against the law.”
“Learn from me guys. I thought I was tough. I was on top of the world. Well guess what? I was scared. I cried many nights in jail.”
” How could I have let my mom down the way I did. I needed to survive so I could see her again. She never stopped loving me. She was just disappointed in my choices. I am always here to talk to if you want,” as he looked around at all the kids’ faces.
John, eventually, retired from the police force and would, occasionally, show up at the youth center. It is now, Joshua, who looks after the neighborhood kids. Giving them a safe place to hang out.
The youth center was unofficially named John’s Center for Kids. After all, it was he who started it. Maybe, sometime in the future, they would be able to have a new youth center with all the equipment needed.
One day, he too, could give someone a second chance as John gave him. John’s legacy would live on through all the kids who were given a safe place to play and not worry about temptations of the streets.
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reflecting – verb: think deeply or carefully
incarcerated – verb: imprison or confine
powers that be – noun: the authorities
shaved – verb: to cut off or crop
mentor – verb: advise or train
parole officer – noun : officials appointed to supervise the conduct of convicted offenders on probation
vicious – adjective: brutal, non ending
resorted – verb: turn to
petty theft – noun: non violent crime
cocky – adjective: arrogant
plight – noun: a difficult or unfortunate situation
struggled – verb: forceful effort
exhausted – adjective: very tired
apprehended – verb: arrest
run down – phrasal verb: in bad shape, old
tremendous – adjective: huge
ushered – verb: show or guide
makeshift – adjective: temporary
discouraged – adjective: lost confidence or enthusiasm
matter-of-fact – adjective: unemotional
exterior – adjective: outside of something
stipulations – noun: condition or requirement
disappointed – adjective: sad or unhappy
retired – adjective: stopped working
unofficially – adverb: not official or confirmed
legacy – noun: heritage, gift
Question ( s ):
Have you ever given anyone a second chance? Why?
Obviously, Joshua learned from his mistakes as a youth. Do you know anyone who made a mistake and learned from their mistake?