Today is Good Friday, which for Christians is the most solemn day of our faith calendar, when we acknowledge and attempt to mindfully accompany Jesus through his mental anguish in Gethsemane, a humiliating trial, and along the painful road to Golgatha to His Crucifixion and Death. It is also Passover, a day that for our Jewish “elders” in faith, commemorates the Exodus of their ancestors and the long difficult journey into the Promised Land. As I have been trying to unite my heart to Christ last night and today, a young man I love, and his own journey, came into my mind.
Last September, my son Jude was hanging out at his friend’s house, and texted me around 10:45pm for a ride home. I was woken from a half-sleep by his text, thinking that he was going to spend the night there. So, I got out of bed sleepy and made my way to the car. As I turned around to pull out, I noticed someone walking towards me. It was dark, and the silhouette of a man walking down my driveway, right up to my driver’s side window where I was all alone, made me uneasy. A young black male looked in at me, and I opened the door to him.
“Jeeze. What are you doing? At this hour!?! You scared me.” I exclaimed.
“I was just hangin’ and wanted to see how you doin’.”
“Well, I’m leaving to pick up Jude, but if you want to catch up while I’m driving, hop in.”
Tory, is a young man close in age to my son Adam, and he showed up in our lives about a year after he died. He moved into our neighborhood with a foster family, and came by frequently to hang out, play basketball with my boys, and just be part of our household activity and family. He became special to me, to all of us, and vice versa. During Covid he moved to a new foster home in Brooklyn, then another in the Bronx. We texted pretty regularly, and sometimes he dropped in, but until that night last fall, I hadn’t seen him in awhile. Life had not been easy for Tory, and I could immediately feel it. From the moment he got into the car, his energy was very intense. He was angry, distrustful of the world, and shared a lot about vaccines, government, and other things not in sync with my own perspectives and viewpoints. He was somewhat grounded, enough for me to note that he never got angry at me for not agreeing with him, but I was worried. He was clearly broken.
We picked up Jude and brought him home. Jude got out, and while still in the car, I offered to drive Tory to the train. On the way, he asked me to pray for him. “I’m so alone. I’m scared.” I acknowledged his fears, and that life had certainly not been kind. “I need a job. I’m going to be on my own soon. It’s so hard,” he went on. As we drove, we opened up to each other, it was emotional, and I shared some of my own experiences of being at the lowest of the low after Adam died; and knowing he was a man of faith, I added that it was really rough for Jesus too, right before he came into his glory. There is something in me that knows God has plans for Tory. His resilience is unbelievable, so it wasn’t just trite. I encouraged him to take one step at a time: resume, job, save some money, eventually get a place, develop a career… and someday his own loving family. … but only one step at a time … and I told him I’d be present to support him for each one. As he got out of the car he grabbed my hand, “Thank you. Please don’t forget to pray. Last night I almost suicided in front of the 4 train.”
“Ok, Tory. Remember, one step. So, tonight, on that train, I want you to focus on your resume. Text me each of your jobs you’ve ever had. Separate texts. Tomorrow I’ll start a draft.”
It has not been easy to help a young man with a list of jobs where all but one lasted a day, who also refuses to be vaccinated, to find a job. But with tons of legwork and effort on Tory’s part, and some minimal support, coaching, and connection-making on mine, three weeks ago he texted me with excitement about a new job. A week later he texted proudly to say he had two.
“Ok, but don’t get so busy that you forget career. Remember, steps. Promise?” I responded.
Last week, my oldest son, Billy, had a birthday party at his apartment, and he invited Tory. I watched him enjoying the party. Full of hopeful energy, full of life, nothing about government, vaccines, or fear, just his big engaging smile and beautiful handsome face interacting in a diverse group of young adults. A rebirth for Tory, so to say…
And this morning during my prayer meditation, as I was attempting to accompany Jesus, to keep His face in my head and be near him in his trial and suffering, an image of Tory’s face suddenly came to mind. I was moved with a recognition and awareness of Jesus’ words for us all “what you do to them you do to me.” I recalled Simon, who helped carry Jesus’s cross, and the ladies weeping for Him on the side of the road, Veronica, who wiped the face of Jesus… all the helpers. …
And my heart made a connection, and I wondered … Could our “Easter” or the “Promised Land” in this current world of brokenness, subway shootings, and road rage, be as simple as connecting with a kid who is scared, lacking connections, and down and out, and helping him with his resume?
Happy Easter, my dear Tory!
(This post was written with Tory’s permission)