We were in the middle of packing our boxes. We were at the end of five years in Ottawa and were preparing to move to Calgary. I was really excited about this move and looking forward to living in the city of my birth and close to the mountains. I didn’t know much about Calgary other than the fact that Banff was nearby and there was no provincial sales tax.
When the phone rang I was actually in the midst of trying to get my sermon ready for Sunday. Not sure I remember much about the topic or other details, but I remember the voice clearly on the other end of the line when I answered.
It was Terry. I had not heard from him or seen him for about 10 years. He had at one time been a six-year-old boy in Wendy’s Sunday School class. He was a bright and happy kid, lots of energy but well mannered, and his folks always made sure he was dressed formally….very nice with a shirt and tie! He looked really cute. We met up again with Terry when we were appointed back to Mississauga.
Terry was in his teens and was a fun and energetic kid. We lived quite close to him and it wasn’t unusual for us to pick him up on our way to the corps on a Sunday morning. He would squeeze in between the two car seats in the backseat in our small car. I use3 to wonder what he thought as we drove to the building with these two making so much noise in the backseat.
Just as we came to the end of our time at Mississauga I got a call from Terry’s parents. He had been arrested – now 15, he had been out with some friends. They had broken into a portable classroom in the neighbourhood and had been caught by the police. I visited with the family and offered to attend court with Terry on the day of his hearing.
We prayed for a good outcome and waited for the hearing date.
On the day of the hearing, as I entered the courtroom, I noticed that the Judge took note of my arrival as I sat towards the back of the room. When Terry’s name was called the charge was read, some discussion took place and then the Judge asked me if I would like to speak to the case.
I explained my relationship and role in Terry’s life and that I was about to spend a summer running a children’s camp on the shore of Lake Erie. I asked if the judge my give Terry into my custody for the summer to remove him from some of the influences which had brought him to this day recognizing that Terry would have to make some decisions about what life would be following that.
We were in the process of being moved and we knew that Camp Selkirk would be our home for the summer.
The judge agreed and so our journey began. It was a good summer for Terry and even as he seemed to grow 6 inches and add 50 lbs he also seemed to settle into a different way of thinking. At the end of the summer I gave him sage advice and sent him on his way.
Fast forward to that phone call. Here we were 10 years later. He was in the Barbados having just returned home from his mother’s funeral. He had promised her he would let me know how life had turned out, what that summer had meant to him, and what his plans were.
As he related it to me, he had been drafted by the NFL, which he described as offering him a ludicrous amount of money…. and should he not wish to go to the USA the CFL had also made an offer, somewhat less ludicrous but still generous. However, he went on to say..
“That summer at Camp Selkirk had such an impact on my life, that I have decided not to play football. I have just graduated with a BA (Honours) and am working with young offenders. I want to invest in them as you did in me.”
Most of the time, as we invest in people we really don’t know the outcome. We may occasionally hear or witness something, but stepping into someone’s life and investing in them isn’t about feeling rewarded, though it’s a byproduct, it’s about wanting to help them find a better way, a way that leads to better outcomes for them.
To support, not to meddle is the objective.
I have always cherished this memory because it was unsolicited and it was so surprising. One day I hope to thank Terry’s Mom when I see her in heaven for being thoughtful enough to tell Terry to share his story.