Do you ever have it where the most casual decision of your day turns out to be your best decision?
I woke up Friday morning, thinking it might be nice to attend the San Diego Rescue Mission's graduation ceremony. Only problem was, the event was that night, and I had not yet RSVP'd. So I called my buddy Mark, who works at the Mission, and before I could even get the words out, he said yes. I could come and it would be no problem.
Here's a tip: When it's Friday night and you're driving downtown San Diego and Comic Con -- a big national convention where people are known to dress up as zombies -- is also downtown, you might want to allow extra time. I did not do this, or at least not as much as I should have. Traffic was crawling, yet somehow I managed to stay calm and wheel into a parking spot at 6:28 p.m. Event was at 6:30.
First person I recognized in the back of the crowded church was not my buddy Mark but a middle-aged guy in a baseball cap.
Isn't that one of the graduates who spoke at this event two years ago -- the one I wrote about?
It's not the kind of thing you want to be wrong about. Once when I was at the Project Rehab car wash, I asked one of the guys, "How long you've been doing this?" He very sheepishly told me he was just there getting his car washed. A guy who was part of Project Rehab heard this and broke out laughing.
So somewhat sheepishly, I asked the guy in the baseball cap if he had spoken at this event before. Yes he had. Boom. "You're Clancy, right?" He smiled that I remembered. We introduced ourselves and shook hands. (Clancy's real name isn't Clancy.)
"I wrote about you in my book!" I beamed. Somewhere the folks from Chicken Soup for the Soul were smiling. Incidentally, you can find the story of Clancy on p. 82 of my book, Stuff You Already Know: And Everybody Should.
Long story short: With minutes to spare, I ran back to my car, grabbed a copy of Stuff, bookmarked the story, and presented the whole thing to Clancy and his wife, who had also spoken at graduation. We chatted for for a few minutes, then took our seats.
Though there's not time here to recount all the quirky, poignant moments of graduation itself, suffice it to say the 20 men who had completed the Mission's 12-month intensive program had been written off by everyone, including their own families -- but here at graduation, they stood before us in suits and ties: proud, tall, and dignified.
One of the two graduates who spoke had graduated many moons ago from my alma mater, the University of San Diego. Both speakers told how the grace of God had led to addictions overcome, families reunited, and hope restored.
Hope can always be restored. Though circumstances change, sometimes in ways we find intolerable, there is always hope. Just ask Clancy, who went from needing hope to being a living, breathing reminder of hope to everyone around him -- including his beautiful wife, his friends and co-workers, and the person who wrote about him two years ago, and now proudly sat next to him at graduation.
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