After 2 weeks of being dutifully at work and keeping to his curfew, an 18-year-old we shall call Ron, quit his job, and was intoxicated a large part of the day. Those who cared for him were heart-broken and angry that their efforts at supporting him to show the Court that he is worthy of being placed on probation appears to have come to nought. Ron has an outstanding bill of $1614 for the subsided legal representation his family had applied for him but his family and friends are thinking of calling off the arrangement. “Just let him go in and we don’t have to fight anymore!” they echoed.
Nonetheless, his grandmother, siblings and a friend accepted our invitation to discuss the matter further. To ensure that grandmother understood Ron’s situation accurately, a volunteer who spoke her language was present. However, the discussion was difficult as it seemed to be weighed down by feelings of defiance, resignation, hurt, betrayal, disappointment, helplessness, indifference, and anger. Holding space for intense emotions is not an easy thing to do and without a command of the language that those in pain understand and prefer, the task at hand was even harder as we literally did not have the words to reflect the feelings in the room. Without acknowledgement and empathy for the feelings, it would be difficult to make a connection with those who had expressed them.
A different approach was needed and so our volunteer decided to share his story with the hope that it would dislodge those present from the strong feelings and positions that prevented them from cooperating with each other. “So, I have been imprisoned and I have been caned too,” he began and immediately captured everyone’s attention. “The only person who visited me was my mother who had to travel for at least 45 mins on a bus and then walk a distance to the Changi Prison Complex. A whole day was lost just to see me for 20 minutes.”
He then shared that he had resolved to care for his mother upon his release, but he is unable to do so now because his mother has dementia; does not recognise him or his siblings. He had looked forward to repaying his mother’s love and spending quality time with her but it’s too late. So, he vowed to treasure the family he has and is now very close to his siblings and spends a tremendous amount of time at home with his children and spouse.
“I have hurt my mother and those who cared for me badly because when I was 18, I was strong, fearless and did not imagine that any harm could come my way. But today, I feel like I have wasted half my life and I am volunteering because I do not want others especially youths to waste their life like I have.” Grandmother was listening intently, and she exclaimed, “I don’t want my grandson to go anymore, I thought I wanted him to go because I really cannot control him and he has been giving me so much heartache. I have been taking care of my 3 grandchildren since they were babies and I love him very much.”
Ron was moved and he promised to return to work and to stop drinking excessively. Our volunteer then told Ron that he went for a run every Tuesday at the MacRitchie Reservoir and he boxed at a gym on Saturdays and would like Ron to join him. Ron was interested and agreed to join him but when the volunteer told him to get his running gear because it was Tuesday, Ron was a little shocked, “Huh! So fast? I am not ready.” Nevertheless, Ron will be at the gym tomorrow for boxing.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
I let people see the cracks in my life. We can’t be phony. We’ve got to keep it real. -Charles R. Swindoll