Choices & Reaping

Choices & Reaping –
As I heard the cold, hard, steel bang, I realized I was entering a new experience. I had been here many times before. The smell was the same -sweat, smoke, urine, hopelessness, angst; you could feel it expand in your nose as you tried not to breathe. Usually there was lots of cursing, laughter, and bitter exchanges between the inhabitants of this hidden domain. But today, all was silent.

I received the call early that morning, and the man with the badge said, “Can you do me a favor?” What was I supposed to do? So, I arrived, not sure what I would face. A dingy 3-story structure that begged to be razed; yet it survived and served a purpose, I suppose. Inside, its metabolism was fueled by human pain, misery, mistakes that could be read upon the deep lines of faces searching for some glimmer of hope. Then I saw the eyes.

The steel slide banged back with a clash, and a face appeared, actually only the eyes, bright, blue eyes with some blonde hair hanging across the brow. He had the place to himself, the whole cellblock. He was indeed, a special “guest.” His notoriety was well known, the topic of disdain and conversation at every dinner table in the small southern town. Yet, those eyes … they didn’t look the part.

Soon, it was just “blue eyes” and myself in the “suite.” Funny he didn’t look the part – frail, small, almost innocent in appearance. It was awkward, more so for me I’m sure. “Blue eyes” had killed, raped, and caused untold damage, and brought misery to innocent lives that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m sure they still live out daily the decisions he made that day. Choices. They live on in the lives of those we affect long after we’re gone.

In the days and years ahead we spent a good deal of time together. I knew it wouldn’t be popular if the small town found out I were meeting with this VIP in his “suite.” Like I said, he had brought incredible pain and suffering to so many. But this is where God had placed me. What was I supposed to do? Why did you have me here, Lord? What’s in this for me?

We got to know his family, pretty well during those years. What a sad ordeal. The choices the dad made contributed to “blue eyes” growing up, well, screwed up is an understatement.

Eventually he made his peace with God, with his dad, and he tried to with the families he had destroyed. Sometimes it’s years, maybe a lifetime, before we reap the whirlwind, but it usually comes. And the saddest part is, it comes to others, not just ourselves. Others we wished it didn’t have to: the children, the loved ones. We go on to our “reward”, leaving behind those asking, “Why?”

The last time I saw “blue eyes” he was holding a bible in his arms, minutes before he breathed his last breath, and stood before God. His eyes had faded some, and there were deep lines around his mouth, and on his forehead. There was a look of sadness, of loss, but of resignation in his stare. He was ready. But behind him continued generations of pain, sorrow, and memory of what could have been.

Someone said, “Choice, not chance, determines destiny.” The sad part is, it can also have such a devastating affect on another’s destiny. The odor of the “suite” faded, the memory is not as keen as it was of all those hours spent listening, but for those reaping another’s choice, it’s probably just as fresh as the day it occurred.

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