ON MARCH 6, I attended the funeral of one of my cousins. It was the day after the young officer, Robert Wilson, was shot while attempting to buy his son a birthday gift. As I lay in bed, I reminisced about my cousin and how we both had our struggles in life growing up and how, like me, he had come to peace with himself. Just as my cousin was making peace with himself, an incident happened where he lived, at the Safe Haven Veterans Home. He was found dead, mysteriously. His struggles were over.
The phone rang and it was my brother, informing me that Officer Wilson went to school with his oldest son and my youngest son.
The phone rang several times after that. I soon learned who Officer Wilson's father was. He was my friend. We grew up together. If Officer Wilson was anything like his father - who was, in his turn, much like his mother - then he grew up learning to never judge a person but to say and think, "There but for the grace of God go I." Robert's father and I had struggles as young people sometimes do. He came from a loving family, and as we grew up I knew that his mother never judged us young people but kept us in prayer.
The last time I saw Robert's father, I was moving out of an apartment and he was moving in. We laughed about some of our crazy adventures as children and as adults. We hugged and said that we would catch up with each other at a later date. That day never came. While he was trying to make peace with his struggles, God had spoken. He suffered from diabetes and God called him home. I never saw him again.
As I thought about our last statements to each other, I had a flashback to a young boy I met while living in Frankford. This young man grew up in foster care. When he turned 18 he became homeless. He was living anywhere he could. During the time I knew him, he was a wannabe hustler. I tried to guide him in a different direction. I used to tell him that all money wasn't good money.
He began to have an interest in becoming a rapper, so he made a demo tape. He gave me this tape and wanted me to listen to it. I must admit that it was pretty good. When he came back for the tape I couldn't remember where I had put it. I told him to get back to me later and by that time I'd have it. He looked at me and said, "That's OK - I got all the time in the world." Then he left.
Less than 10 minutes later I heard six gunshots. Then, word got to me that he had been killed in the playground behind White Hall projects. What he said to me that night will always haunt me: "I have all the time in the world." Just that fast his life was cut short without any warning.
It made me wonder where my life really was going.
That statement was with me for days, nights, months and years. It began to scare me straight.
So, slowly but surely I began to change. I began to stop selling and using drugs. I wanted to move toward putting my life in order. The process was slow at first, even with slips along the way. With that statement hanging over my head, my dedication slowly turned into determination, and I've been well on my way ever since. My struggles were becoming minor problems. In the last letter I wrote that was published in the Daily News, I wrote about how I was offered a job of a lifetime and that I was at risk of losing it because of a criminal charge I had against me from 22 years ago.
Well, I ended up getting that job. The ladies in the county office fought for me. They recognize that my past didn't dictate my future. Shortly, after starting I was asked to produce my diploma. The application asked if I had graduated, and I had said yes. It asked if I had received a diploma, and I said yes. Nowhere on it did it say that I would have to produce it. After years of moving from place to place, to shelters and other institutions, it got lost in the back of a car that was towed. Today things are different; you just don't go to your old high school or to the Board of Education and get it. It has to be ordered online, which could take up to four to eight weeks. In the meantime, the job I fought to get is now back on the line.
My message is: When you think you have all the time in the world, you really don't. In a blink of an eye, anything can go wrong. You can lose your life, or someone close to you. It doesn't have to be about people - it can be places or things. One might want to think more about getting his life in order.
All the time in the world? No, barely enough.