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A LIFE PRESERVER



"It's hard for me to learn. There's something wrong with me inside my head. That's what they say to me at the orphanage," I told Mrs. Dryer, the school Principal.

I will never forget Mrs. Dryer standing there shaking her head at me.

"Roger, can you do me a favor?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am," I replied.

"One day, you are going to be free of that home. One day, you will be somebody special. There is a special goodness about you that sets you apart from the rest of the class. I am not quite sure what it is, but it is a special quality that you possess. You always seem to bounce back no matter what they do to you at the orphanage. Some day when you are all grown up, special and free, will you remember I told you that?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am. I won't forget what you told me," I replied.

Over the next 23 years, I made my way from the orphanage to the reform school, twice. Then I made my way to jail. Next came the army and then I made my way to prison.

On February 6, 1969 at age 24, I was released from prison. It was the first time in my life that I was ‘free’ of the system, free for the first time in my life to make choices for myself.

I stood outside the prison not having the slightest idea who I was as a person. I did not know how to do anything for myself. I was wearing a baggy suit that the prison had given me. I had less than $50 in my pocket. I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. I stood there searching my mind for something that would help me take my next step. I looked up into the cloudy sky and closed my eyes.

"One day, you are going to be free of that home. One day, you will be somebody special. There is a special goodness about you that sets you apart from the rest of the class. I am not quite sure what it is, but it is a special quality that you possess. You always seem to bounce back no matter what they do to you at the orphanage. Some day when you are all grown up, special and free, will you remember I told you that?"

"I REMEMBER, MRS. DRYER," I said aloud.

The words Mrs. Dryer told me that day at school were all I had to make a life for myself. It was all I had that I could truly call my own. It was the only thing I had that was not taken away from me. Since that day, I have never violated the law, except for a few traffic violations.

Little did I know, standing there that day that Mrs. Dryer was doing something very special for me. She knew about the daily beatings and abuse I suffered as a little boy. She knew it was just a matter of time before my ship would wreck and sink, that when it did, I would be left treading water all by myself. How wonderful it was for her to take the time to stop and throw a child an adult life preserver.



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