I'm not there yet

Dear Hope Nation,

Since the nights of broken glass began back in April, Hope has taken a whole bunch of steps to try to prevent further damage and to catch the thrower. In addition to using Families in Transitions’ cameras, reporting to the Manchester Police Department and conducting our own drive-bys at unusual times of day, we’ve also purchased and installed a quality surveillance camera setup of our own. Anyone who’s ever tried to determine anything from nighttime cameras knows how difficult it is to make definitivee identification from an image that’s not well lit. Because we didn’t want to falsely accuse anyone, we have held off on going public with the information we have. Until now.

Once you know something, it can’t be unknown. We’ve had videos for a while of the person smashing Hope’s windows. All the videos appear to be the same person—same build, same mannerisms, same gait. I’ve had suspicions as to who this vandal was, but not enough to mention a name to the authorities. Dave Cote, Karla Gallagher and I have spent way, Way, WAY too much time looking at video tape of senseless destruction and random acts of violence, but none of us was more than 80% sure of his identity. That has now changed.

This morning, reviewing the tape of the latest window breaking, we heard the voice of the person who smashed the window. As he cased the joint, riding a bicycle past Hope, he was singing. He has a distinctive voice—not a particularly good voice, but one that easily recognizable. The three of us are more than 95% sure we recognize that voice, and we have gone to the police, asking for an arrest. We will press charges, but because this is a property crime, not an assault on a person, who knows how long it will take to find this person, and how long he will be kept incarcerated? Perhaps he will be in jail for a few days before being released to stand trial. We will of course testify against this person and let the process play out, understanding the result will be what it is regardless of our hopes.

The man in question is a Hope member, which is heartbreaking. The man in question has been helped over and over and over by Hope staff members and by other members. The man in question has found and lost recovery a number of times—unfortunately, he is rarely completely honest, so it’s difficult to know when exactly he’s in recovery. Many, many times he has walked through our doors, telling everyone he is drug free, yet exhibiting the telltale signs of slurred words, heavy eyelids and strange body motions. He lives at society’s bottom while regularly claiming to have just inherited/been awarded/found large amounts of money. He is both broke and poor.

Not having a pot to urinate in or a window to throw it out of is a terrible place to be. I’ve been there, as have many of you. Living at rock bottom, though, does have its advantages. First, you can’t sink much lower. Second, there aren’t many consequences that really apply. If you’re couch surfing at best and sleeping in a baseball dugout at worst, jail may not be such a bad alternative. If you’re always broke—just not broke enough to keep from using—being ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution has no more meaning than being told to fly into the center of the sun and bring back fresh strawberries. Either way, it ain’t gonna happen.

I don’t want any more windows broken. I want the man who did this to face consequences. I don’t want Hope to go on paying one or two thousand dollars every week for shattered glass and rock souvenirs. I want casual cruelty and targeted violence to go the way of the Dodo bird. I don’t want . . . I want . . . I don’t want . . . I want . . . My wishes and wants are exactly that—wants and wishes. They have no substance, no animating power, no structure.

Your prayers, on the other hand, may have some spiritual form, so I’m going to ask you, if you are a praying person, to pray for a few things.

Please pray the destruction stops.

Please pray for the person who is arrested for this, recognizing he is a sick man, for what but some terrible soul-sickness, some weltschmerz, some emptiness of the human spirit could lead a man to this.

Please pray for a world that breeds something like this.

Finally, please pray that when folks in recovery discover who this person is, they respond with anger-tinged sorrow rather than sorrow-tinged anger. There, but for the grace of God, goes any of us.

Please pray the answer to that last prayer reaches Keith Howard because I’m not there yet.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith