A Walk Down Misery Street

Barbara kept slowly pacing from one wall to another, probably as she had done in her cell for fifteen years in prison.

“Next week, I’ll be working at the probation office as a volunteer. I’ll make copies and do filing. During the interview, someone called the officer, and he left for a short while, leaving me alone in the office. His cloak hung on a coat rack. He trusted me. A Probation officer trusted me. Me?! When I got home, I told this to my mother. She held me tightly and said that God is returning me to His grace.”

When Barbara finished, the auditorium was completely silent for a long time—for the first time in the entire, long academic year. Faces were pensive and gloomy. Each recognized his own life, in one way or another, in Barbara’s story.

At the end of the ceremony, assistant director Terri took a stand.

“You’re needed there!” She pointed to somewhere outside the window of the classroom. “People need you out there! They’re waiting for you! You know how much they need you there!” Terri said loudly.

The students listened to her speech with full attentiveness. Perhaps it was the first time in many years they didn’t feel themselves as outcasts, as garbage, as thieves or prostitutes. They saw themselves not even as graduating students, but as missionaries who would soon have to fulfill an extraordinarily difficult and often thankless mission.

Then Terri began to pick flowers from her bouquet and gave them out to each of us.



“So, you graduated from school? Became a cool pro?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m done with school and got a diploma,” I answered. “I wouldn’t say I am pro just yet.”

“Then let’s drink to you becoming the best substance abuse counselor in New York!” She elegantly raised her glass of warm sake.

“Okay.” I supported her toast, raising my glass.

With my “dear aunt” in a sushi bar, we kept toasting my diploma.