Thursday, May 21, 2009
A few weekend ago, I had the pleasure of joining Genny and the youth group with which she volunteers for a weekend service project at the Harvest Farm. The Harvest Farm is part of the Denver Rescue Mission and is a men's program for recovery from addiction and poverty. Men who want to break cycles of destruction in their lives can be admitted to this program and they will live on the farm for 13 months. They learn valuable working and social skills; get exercise, counseling, and spiritual guidance; help grow and harvest various food and plants, raise livestock, and milk cows. Some of their produce is eaten on site and some goes to the Denver Rescue Mission to help feed the poor. They get a car when they graduate, and can even get new teeth if they were destroyed with drug use.
It really was an incredible experience to interact with people who have been so close to, or even completely over the edge. The surprising part wasn't hearing stories about how many drugs they've done, or how badly they've hurt loved ones and burned bridges, or how close the have come to dying. The unbelievable part was talking to them, and seeing what they are like now. I asked three people if they were employed by the program, only to be told all three times they were in the program, before I caught on. They seemed so normal. And that's just it. Part of this normal and functional vibe you experience when you meet some of the participants is testament to the effectiveness of the Harvest Farm program, which boasts much higher success rates than the average addiction recovery program. But I became increasingly aware of the fact that a larger part of it came from the fact that these people are exactly that.
We like to view people who are in bad circumstances we can't imagine, or that have completely ruined large portions of lives, and think that they must be so different than us. Because we could never end up like that. We could never make that mistake, especially not as many times as they did. But when you come face to face with someone who has been there, and is now making a real recovery, and not just feigning it, you come face to face with something else too. They're just like you now. And they used to be. But somewhere in between they took a wrong turn, then another. They burned bridges and hurt a lot of people, including themselves. But when you listen to their stories, you can almost always trace it back to one decision, one hit, one time. And that changed everything.
A little more humble thought, and you can arrive to one or many points in your life where you were one wrong turn away from tanking everything. But you made the right move. Or maybe you went that way for a little while but came back out just fine. It's easy to think it's because you're different than they are. This trip served as a reminder for me that I'm not. None of us are.
It's a lot like driving in a city. As long as you stay on course, you find your destination, and you'll never know how lost you could have been if you went another way. But if you make a wrong turn, everything gets harder. If you're lucky, you find your way back quickly, and get back on track. But maybe you make another wrong turn, and that leads to another. With each turn, you are more lost and more likely to make another. And soon you get to this place where where you've made too many wrong turns, and no matter how badly you want to be back where you were, you just don't know where that is anymore.
That's when you need help. And that's where Harvest Farm meets people and helps them find their way back to the place they once were. The place they were meant to be.