Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Little Voice

This was one of those days that one never forgets.

A couple months ago, if you would've asked me who Allen Anderson was, I would've shrugged my shoulders and given you a blank look.

A couple months ago I got invited to be a part of an online support group for Allen Anderson. Since the name meant nothing to me, I figured it was an accident, and nearly clicked ignore, but something stopped me. That little voice in me that always wants to do good, suggested to wait... think about this... it could be important.

I thought about it throughout the day, and into the night. Looked again at the people who were joining this group, and _none_ of them looked familiar with the exception of my Aunt Carolyn, who had invited me to join this group.

It must have been a mistake. Allen Anderson was some kid who clearly got into trouble and was trying to work it out. I wanted to be supportive, but really... who was I to this kid? Do I join this group, or do I ignore? The little voice that wants me to do good, was getting louder, said wait... think about this... it could be important.

All day long today, I've been thinking back to that moment when I had that choice. How easy it would've been to just ignore the invitation. No one would've said anything. No one would've missed me. My life would've continued as it was, Allen Anderson would've never known the difference if I had joined his support group or not.

It was late in the evening, on the second day with this choice that I made the connection. Allen was my cousin's kid. This was family. Granted... family who I rarely see... hardly know... but they are family. Allen and his family was looking for support. I confess... I still hesitated on joining the support group. I was skeptical that something like this would be meaningful in anyway to Allen, his family, or to me for that matter. But I joined in hopes that my cousin and his family may, in some small way, be uplifted that we were paying attention.

So I joined Allen's support group on Facebook.

Again, just a small gesture. I did little else except to read the updates from Allen's brother and mother on the page. Allen enrolled in MN Teen Challenge, and was recovering from alcohol and drug abuse. Recovering from a life where he was constantly getting into trouble that nearly killed him. His brother and mother would occasionally ask for messages of support that they could share with Allen. That small part of me wanted to write something... but Allen wouldn't know who I was... anything I could write would be meaningless. So I never did. I just read the updates, and hoped things would work out for Allen.

We are fortunate at our church that we have MN Teen Challenge come once a year to share a service with us. This includes having about 60-80 adults, aging from 14-60 come in front of our congregation, and share some wonderful music, and testify some of their personal stories of struggle and triumph. The music and the stories make a powerful presentation of how effective this program is to help people get a second chance in life. There are stories about mother's who have their children taken from them because of their drug problems, men who lived in homelessness just trying to get that next high, people that were stuck in a bad situation and couldn't, for whatever reason, make the right choices, and constantly getting themselves in life threatening situations. This program (MN Teen Challenge) has a good record of helping these people overcome their struggles, and give them the confidence and life skills to make a better life for themselves, and their families.

We are also fortunate at our church to have a member, Jim Mackin, who works for MN Teen Challenge.

I am also very fortunate to have a wife who will say and ask questions that I may not. She must work with that little voice in my head, because she asked Jim about the possibility of having Allen come to our church. He suggested to her that it would be no problem.

So I stood again at a choice. Is it weird to pull strings so that Allen could come to our church? Allen's family was clearly going to all the churches Allen was visiting... would they be comfortable coming to our church? We had already made tentative plans for celebration of Cecelia's birthday party, if Allen came, how does that change things?

I'm sorry to share that a big part of me suggested that I shouldn't make a fuss. Don't bother our friend from church with our personal business. Allen will never know that we decided to bypass on the chance to have him come to our church, his family will never know, the world will go on... but that little voice in me persisted.

Janet was also persistent. We talked about it for over a week until finally decided to push the button, and ask Jim to see if he could make things work out. In effect, we decided to bother our friend to have Allen, this kid... this distant cousin of mine who wouldn't know me from anyone else, come to our church and hear about his story that we knew very little about. My gut ached all week, as I wasn't sure if this was the right thing to do.

I could spend the next several paragraphs detailing what happen Sunday morning at my church, but I would be wasting my time. If I were given a microphone, and allowed to have an hour of broadcast time on the radio to tell you what happened when Allen and his family greeted me, it would mean little to you. If I had the ability to hire Shakespeare and Steven Speilberg, and have them write and produce a movie about my Sunday morning, it would be a huge flop, and no one would want to see it.

All I will say today is that Allen and his family gave beautiful testimonies today about their struggles and their triumphs. They inspired many tears from the congregation, including me. After the service, it was a great opportunity to sit down, and share a memorable meal with Allen and his family.

Today was one of the days in my life I will remember forever, and keep close to my heart. Today was one of those days where I could look back at those seemingly unimportant decisions that I made... and now know that they did matter... they did mean something. Not only to Allen and his family... but to me.

A couple months ago, I listened to that little voice. I think tomorrow... I'm going to listen for it a little harder.


Your little voice had spoken volumes. Thank you and Janet for the kind words and making our visit to your church possible.

From our family to yours and your church, I wish to express a GREAT BIG THANK YOU!! for your support, understanding and compassionate love.

With All My Love,
Allen's (Dad) Tom Anderson

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