Within one month of turning thirteen years old, Jonathan became a man. At least, that’s what he thought. He had his first experience with alcohol, lost his virginity, and tried pot. To Jonathan, this made him grown up. More than that, he saw marijuana as an opportunity. He was a smart kid and understood smoking pot could be expensive – unless you bought enough to sell. By selling, Jonathan could accomplish three things all at once: he could make money, get high for free and be popular.
His plan worked brilliantly. He made money, got stoned for free, and people loved him.
What Jonathan didn’t plan were the consequences of the path he was on. He couldn’t see that in five years he would be sitting in a jail cell all alone. He didn’t anticipate the devastation that would befall his family. There was no way to recognize the impact of his actions on the community. He couldn’t have guessed the depth of the emptiness that would swallow him inside. Certainly, he wasn’t planning on becoming a statistic.
Growing up, Jonathan had a great childhood and all the ingredients for success. He had a loving family that was moderately wealthy. They attended church together every Sunday and Wednesday. They lived in a nice neighborhood. Jonathan was sent to private schools to protect him from the dangers of the public school system. Yet it was from within that safe environment that Jonathan became a drug dealer. He bought marijuana from a local grocer, a man respected in the community. Sometimes he even got pot from an usher in his church. Then he sold marijuana to his fellow students. For the most part, these students looked like him: white, middle to upper class, preppy and athletic. This wasn’t the ghetto. It was main-street U.S.A. It was Mayberry for the 21st Century.
By his first year of college, Jonathan was not only selling marijuana, but ecstasy and cocaine as well. Cocaine had become his personal favorite to use. It was easier to conceal, odorless and plentiful. As a student attending a small private college he found a broad customer base, even though it was a Christian affiliated institution. Once again, he sold drugs to his peers, none of whom “looked the part of a drug user.
The dark and seedy world most commonly associated with dealers and addicts was not Jonathan’s world. Who would have guessed just how dark his secrets were? No parent would have thought that he could be the type of person who would sell drugs. Yet he was exactly that type.
The real world is very different than what we like to imagine. Reality shatters our preconceived notions. It also raises questions like what went wrong? How can this be?
How Could Jonathan Do This?
How could he grow up in what seemed to be such a safe, stable home and yet deal drugs? What starts someone down the road of living a lie? How can you lose your sense of who you are?
The answers seem difficult but they are not. Jonathon had divorced himself from who he was and become what others wanted. There was no real Jonathan anymore. He had played the part so long he had become the lies he told. No one knew Jonathan and Jonathan didn’t know himself.
When parents of some of the students at the school went to the school officials, that’s when his carefully crafted world imploded and sent him spiraling. Jonathan found himself hiding out at a friend’s house off campus, trying to decide what to do when his phone rang. It was his father.
“Where are you? his father asked. Obviously, the school had called him. Jonathan knew if he told his dad where he was, his dad would tell the school, the police would find him and he would be arrested. He thought it over carefully. Then he gave his father the address. After he hung up the phone, he called another friend and asked him to pack together a few items of clothing and bring them to him. He showered, got dressed and waited for the police to pick him up.
Sitting in the cell at the police station, Jonathan felt relief. His world had ended. He was spent. He couldn’t bear up under the lie anymore. Because of his charges, Jonathan was looking at serious prison time. Still, all he felt was relief at finally being discovered.
Jonathan did spend several months in jail, but he wouldn’t see the inside of a prison. His family found out about us, the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH), and the court agreed to let Jonathan come, but only after he completed a minimum of 90 days – maximum of 180 days – locked up. After about four months, they released him to us.
Home At The PAYH
Jonathan was defiant and so accustomed to manipulating others that he did it without thinking. However, for the first time in his life, he was in a place where he couldn’t fool anyone. We’d seen and experienced his type before. We understood his past.
It was a long, hard road and every step of it was uphill for Jonathan. It seemed that he could do nothing without us finding out about it. He was given practically every form of punishment we give boys while he was here. He dug holes, carried logs and wrote sentences with bricks. And every time he was caught, it dealt a harsh blow to his habit of deceit. His safety net of using deception to cover himself had holes in it and we made those holes bigger.
Jonathan was chosen, against all odds it seemed, to participate in our annual bike ride. However, the week before the ride began Jonathan lied about a routine task, his memory work. It was the smallest of infractions, but it was part of a larger problem in him that had to be addressed. His deceit once again had limited his opportunities and he was not allowed to participate in the ride. Further, he was not allowed to go with the rest of our young men to a fun week away on a PAYH family trip. He was left with staff to spend the week alone, on our campus, working. All alone, again, he was forced to look at himself and come to terms with who he was.
That was a turning point for Jonathan. We’d like to say that after that, Jonathan was a role model, but he wasn’t. Change rarely happens that way. It was still difficult for Jonathan, but now he was fighting to be different. It was hard to see this change in him, but gradually it began to show itself. Even a week before his graduation, he struggled with honesty. But over the next several years, his character and integrity continued to show. He stayed in contact with the youth home staff, making permanent and meaningful relationships. Weekly – sometimes daily – he called for advice or to talk and he listened. He visited several times a year. He told his friends about us. He donated to the home regularly. His heart, which had once been so hard and full of lies, had softened. He was becoming restored to others and his family.
Jonathan graduates college this spring and is going to be a teacher. After leaving the PAYH, he enrolled in Covenant College where he studied teaching, played baseball and was selected by his coach as a team leader. He was featured in the school’s magazine as an outstanding student of faith and inspiration. He married a beautiful girl in June of 2012. They are expecting their first child this May.
7,225,800 adults are either in jail, prison, on
probation, or paroled in the United States.
Jonathan is NO LONGER one of these statistics!
Jonathan’s story is a success. And it’s real. A real change was made in a permanent way. There is a ripple affect reaching out from him, affecting his fellow students and faculty at Covenant, his parents and siblings, the friends and neighbors he’d grown up with, the children who sit in his classroom. His experience is invaluable and it impacts countless others. That’s the power of one life that is changed.
Together, we can continue to create stories like Jonathan’s.
Make a contribution today that will provide another young man this same opportunity.