I was at the train station Monday in Geneva. We were waiting to go to the opera. A nice looking black man came to me and asked if I could help him. He said he had spent the night outdoors last night. It wasn't cold. He wanted money for a ticket. I said he should get on with us and I would buy his ticket.
He did, and sat with us. Nice looking man, younger looking than his 40 years would reveal. His ticket cost me about 7 bucks. For the next hour we talked a great deal, more important HE talked and I listened.
Here are some things he told me. He grew up on the west side, Chicago and Homan on the west side. That when he was 17 (he was an up and coming basketball player) he was arrested for standing while black. That he was framed by the Chicago cops. Spent 9 months in jail and got a 5 year probation.
Life didn't go well after that. He has had a hard time finding work. Has 5 children with 3 different women. Sees them from time to time, showed me a picture. Doesn't have a Drivers License. DUIs.
Used to have a pick up truck where he did yard maintenance type landscaping. That's gone. That he was a really hard worker, worked for a company I know well out our way. Even showed me a pay stub. Said he used to work at Caterpillar in maintenance. But his sister and her boyfriend wrote checks on his account and stole all his money. Then because he owed so much on child support they government took his whole check.
So now he lives in a shelter and rides a bike. Works where and when he can. He DID graduate High School with a 3.0 from the CPS. Seemed OK. I actually liked him. We talked about the company he had been working for. I asked if he knew my friend who worked there, Tim. (I gave him the last name). OH YET. A good friend to him as well. Great guy.
He asked if I knew where he could find work since he just can't get a break. I asked him for his phone number which he gave me, and I gave it to a guy who uses day labor, pays cash and is close to where he stays in Oak Park.
Well, here's the result. Several unanswered phone calls even with voice mail to offer him work.. no response. I ran into Tim and asked if he knew Derrick. He said he hasn't worked there for the last 3 years. I am suspicious of most of the rest of the stories I heard. He was a hustler, and tried to hustle me.
I'm not suspicious of the fact that he keeps getting involved with women, moving in, getting kicked out. After meeting Peggy he said that finding a Godly women is really hard. I suspect he is looking in all the wrong places. Toward the end I got into some discussion of spiritual things, revealed that I am an ordained minister. He used to go to church.. but not any more.
I only post this because he represents so much of a cultural norm we need to begin to make abnormal. Unless we as a society begin to help those trapped in the cultural collapse to escape, not with money, but with hard tough love that gets them on their feet with meaning. That's what is needed and that's what is missing. Government can do nothing for Derrick except to keep him enslaved for the rest of what could be a short life.
I think about that hour's train ride. I spoke words of hope over him. I encouraged him. Maybe something he got will get him set free from the chains of cultural deception that hold him down. MAYBE.
I'll pray for him that God will take him to a place where he has nothing else left except Jesus. Then true repentance from dead works can begin. We have created a monster in the community that locks people in cells made not with steel but with enablements to live below the God given potential they were created for.