A young man stopped me on the street today. He said he was a poet and an artist. Could I spare some change so he could buy a meal.
I recognized the slight, long-haired man from an earlier encounter. For him I was just another faceless, aging woman to hit up. I remembered him because a few months back I bought two of his drawings. They weren’t the real thing, just photocopies, but they showed talent. What interested me more was his story. He had been clean for a couple weeks. This time, he said, he was determined to stay that way. I hoped he might beat the odds.
Addictions sink powerful claws. Yesterday he told me he wasn’t drawing these days. He was writing poetry. I asked if he was clean. He hesitated. Mostly, he said, except for the occasional party. Looking in his eyes, I could see the parties likely came close together.
Chris Rene’s stirring performance of his own song, “Young Homie”, on The X Factor made me think of the encounter. Chris, too, is an addict. When he won over the judges on his first X Factor appearance, he admitted he had been clean for only 70 days. For an addict, that’s overnight.
Rene is enormously talented. The lyrics and music he and his sister Gina wrote for “Young Homie” are star quality. So are his performing skills. He has incentive to stay clean: a beloved, two-year-old son. He wants to give his child a better life than he can offer if he stays with his current job as a trash collector.
The judges were wowed, but the road ahead will not be easy. Drugs and alcohol are enticing dancing partners, and they are integral to Rene’s social milieu. Still, his performance gives me hope this young man has a shot at staying clean and making a good life for himself and his son.
I’ll be thinking of him next time the young man in downtown Kelowna asks me for money, and I’ll be hoping one day someone finds the key that unlocks the cage of his addictions and lets him soar.