Sometimes you hear a story and it means more than other stories you have heard. Sometimes a lesson comes in a way that is so simply stated that you cannot help but be impressed by the person that shared the story. These are the good times. These are the things that make a great day even greater. This is a big world and there are so many people that have so many things to say, but this week, I heard a reluctant tale. This week I heard a tale that expressed the very essence of what it means to be human in the world of the divine.
It matters little where I met the man. It matters little how I know him. What does matter, is that I thought him to be in his mid-twenties, just getting started in life, and as not having lived through much. This could be a lesson in itself for me (he is mid-thirties and has been through the hell side of this heaven), he is smarter than others, and I, gave him credit for being. Prior to this conversation, we told jokes to one another. We got along, but spoke of the lighter side of living. While he has offered his real name to be given as I tell this story, I will not call him by name.
“I’ll give anybody a second chance, because I was given a second chance”. I can still hear the way he said these words. With conviction. From experience. For me to understand the depths he would go to for people. It shook me. He meant what he was saying. If I have ever heard anything said with conviction, it was this. He then, sheepishly, went into why he believed in second chances.
Cocaine was his drug of choice. He admitted he misses it sometimes. He said, “It helps you get things done”.
I asked, “Does what you are getting done make sense?”.
He admitted it did not. He said he had spent two years in jail and had read the Bible all the way through. He said some of his friends are still into the world he left behind and that he never knows if, or when, he might see them again. He also spoke of his mother’s love. How she had given up at times, but also, how she is his greatest cheerleader. It all started, he said, when he got off track after his father’s premature death. We spoke about his sister, his life, and hopefully I conveyed how impressed I was with where he was, especially when compared to where he had been.
It has taken some days for me to process how I feel about the whole conversation. To determine what lesson I might learn from speaking with the I learned a little more about that day. It may be this. After people die suddenly, or after a period of our not seeing them, we hear words like, “you just never know”. These words are usually followed with an admonition not to take life for granted. For me, on this day, I would say words like, “you just never know”, but to let that guide my interaction with others or to take my time getting to know a person.
It is impressive that any of us have made it this far in life. It is impressive that any of us have held onto what is good in a world that from a certain angle, can be perceived as a big, fat, mess. What made my friend’s story impressive is not so much where he came from, but the lesson he learned from that place. “I’ll give anybody a second chance, because I was given a second chance“. Regardless of how he learned it, or where he learned it, he has mastered the lesson of grace. He has learned the way of peace. Lessons I am still learning.
During our conversation, he looked toward the ground, and with a sigh, said he had not talked about those stories in a long time. Maybe because nobody asked. Maybe because he was unsure how people would react. Maybe the lesson he needed to learn was how to accept the same grace he is compelled to give. Who knows? A second chance is not grace, but it is a great step towards grace.
If we give out second chances without forgiveness and without the hope that the second time will be greater results than we imagine, it is only another try. If we give out second chances with the same, or more, confidence, encouragement, and investment as we first approached an interaction, then it is grace. People will surprise us. Not because they are good or bad, but because we are inherently terrible when it comes to predicting the behavior of people.
My life has been full of second chances. My career path has changed. I have been close to death more than once. My wife and I divorced and are remarried. I saw the sun go below the horizon last night and will see it come over the horizon this morning. Last year I saw the trees in my backyard discolor and fall, only to be replaced with new green leaves this spring. Last night, after having all I could take of the day, I fell asleep, and after a few hours, I woke with more energy and opportunity.
The world is full of second chances. We all have had a second chance. I would like to be as matter-of-fact about offering second chances as my friend was that day. All we have been given is a chance. All we are promised is another chance. I have heard it said, “We are not promised tomorrow”, but are we not? We may not be promised tomorrow in this form, but we surely are promised an eternity of tomorrows. So much so, that with some thought, all of the tomorrows and yesterdays become one big “today”. Enjoy it all. Have a happy today. Be well, feel good, and may peace be the result of everything you do.