As I mentioned in my last blog post, the young men that I was fortunate enough to meet and work with who had been incarcerated in the Texas Youth Corrections system were often talented and gifted, although their inherent strengths needed to be called out in a healthy way. One of the best examples of this was Anthony, a young man who is now 19 years old and doing well as a supervisor for an oilfield employer in West Texas.
I first met Anthony following an evening program that I did with other volunteers as he approached me and said, “you’re going to be my mentor.” I told Anthony that I would think about it and talk to my wife and once we were in agreement, I started meeting with Anthony a couple of times a week along with a couple of other kids (we would meet in groups of 3 or 4).
The connection with Anthony was different from it is with most of the kids and that was because he wanted it to be. Many of them want to be given something and improve themselves but many also lack capacity, courage, discipline and other characteristics necessary to see immediate returns on your investment. Anthony was different, though, engaging and charismatic as he shared the things that bothered him the most and listened intently when I offered input. He was/is a natural leader and that reality had shown up in the wrong ways leading up to his incarceration. With positive opportunities to operate in an unadulterated application of his gifts (he was elected the President of the council representing the boys at the facility to interact with the staff) and consistent affirmation from many volunteers as well as myself, Anthony really grew quickly.
I’ll never forget the scene when he was getting ready to leave and go home. Myself, another man who had been involved in speaking into Anthony’s life and several volunteers that knew Anthony gathered around him and spoke positive Truth into and over him to send him away. Tears streamed down my face as well as many others in the room as we declared to that young man this was a new day and that the next steps he took were into his God-designed destiny. I won’t tell you if Anthony cried, or not, because he hasn’t given me permission to tell that part and I wouldn’t want to embarrass him . . .
The emotions, affirmation, declaration and prayer for him were the culminating event in that season of our relationship. We have stayed in touch over the last couple of years since then and I am so proud of him for what he is accomplishing. He has worked and prospered, with his maturity and leadership ability breaking through for promotions and recognition. Anthony was waiting to break out of the lies that he had cloaked himself with regarding who he was. He was not a criminal, gangster, thug, gang-banger, etc.; he was and is a leader of men and change agent for the world around him. The real Anthony just needed to be called out at a time when he was ready to start to step out.