I had a lot in common with William. Both of us were being raised by single moms, and both of us had siblings; my mom was raising four kids by herself, his mom was raising three. We both lived in the same apartment complex, mine being directly behind William’s, but my family had been there for five or six years before his moved in. William and I started hanging out when I was 12 or 13 years old, and we became fast friends.
One day, William showed up at my door dressed in his Boy Scout uniform. He asked me if I wanted to walk door to door with him collecting money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We walked the neighborhood for hours collecting money. Some people gave William dollars and change, others gave him checks.
On the way home, William took all the checks and threw then down a sewer. Then he put all the money in his pocket. I said, “What are you doing?” He looked at me and said, “I’m not a Boy Scout.”
Another time, William invited me to lunch at El Torito’s, a Mexican chain that had moved into the neighborhood. The food there was excellent. I told William that I didn’t have the money to go out to eat. He told me not to worry, that he had the money. We ordered a big lunch, and had a great time. Then William said, “I’ll be right back. I have to go to the restroom.” After about 15 minutes, I realized that William wasn’t coming back. I had to sneak out of the restaurant, not having the money to pay.
Walking home from visiting some girls that lived four or five miles from our apartments, William decided that he no longer wanted to walk. Spotting two bicycles in a yard, William said, “Let’s take those bikes.” I refused. William walked back to the bikes, jumped on one of them, and took off. He rode past me and said, “C’mon.” I couldn’t imagine stealing another kid’s bike. I later asked him what he did with the bike, and he told me he threw it in a trash dumpster.
By this time, I was already working full time, and I was making enough money to take care of my little needs. William was learning to steal bikes, something that would later land him in juvenile hall. When I stopped hanging out with him, he stole my bike, rode it home, and left it front of my apartment.
The last I heard, William was in San Quentin prison.
When you are born, you are not yet anything. You are a blank slate, pure potential. But you are becoming something. The decisions you make determine the “something” that you are becoming. Your decisions can set a trajectory, a direction for your life. To change the direction, you have to change your decisions.
This is as true today as it was when you were born, when you were 13 years old, or when you were 64 years old. At any time, you can change directions simply by making different decisions.
What decision do you need to take to change directions in some are of your life now?