Common ground

Today I spent four hours painting, cleaning, sweeping, and debugging a building that was given to the local Jaycees chapter back in 1927. The building was constructed way before that date and is in pretty good shape all things considered. However, it has fallen into deep disrepair thanks to a previous chapter's neglect. Our chapter inherited it and we're working hard to restore it.

We scheduled in advance to spend time today working on the building, but we couldn't find much help. Enter a local recovery mission. We donate food and goods to them a couple times a year, so we thought we'd call in a favor. They quickly agreed to send a gaggle of guys over to help us in whatever ways we needed.

Of course we were a little hesitant. It would be three girls and four or five men recovering from drug addictions. We were warned: If they ask for money, tell them you don't have any; if they ask for a ride, tell them you won't have time; if they ask for your phone number, report them to us. You can imagine it was a little intimidating.

But then they showed up, and we were reminded that the guys were just guys. Just people trying to rectify mistakes they've made and chart a new course and be better today than they were yesterday. They were just people who had hurt their families and themselves because they couldn't stop abusing drugs. They weren't bad people; they were people who needed a chance.

So for four hours we talked together, laughed together, sang together (and realized that it's impossible not to sing along to early 90s music), talked about each other's families, about our children, our mamas, ... all the common threads and connections that ran through our lives. We were easy and relaxed and joyful.

And it put us in our places. During those hours, we were no different from those men. One poor choice, one mistake, one path wrongly chosen and any one of us could've been the person working for free because we depend on others' kindness and generosity to survive. And these guys may be the ones who go on to help other addicts recover from their diseases and live meaningful, happy lives.

My father is an addict who no longer abuses his drugs of choice (heroin and crack), but who still drinks and has more pills than a pharmacy. My mother is an addict, though her drug of choice is nicotine and though she quit nearly two years ago, I suspect she's smoking again here and there. So I know good and well that addicts are just people. I am grateful that today was another opportunity for a reminder.

We are all just people, hurting and smiling and struggling side by side. I hope I never forget.


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