Jericho

Journey from the Light

The Jericho Road features strongly in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This is not just an ancient road in the Holy Land but a dark road of life on which far too many find themselves and find it very difficult to turn back towards the light.

For many years while based over in Kilmore Quay, we lacked even the basic facilities of having a place to meet for any kind of community gatherings. There was quite a large living room in my house so that became the place for meetings. For several years often twice a week about 50 of the youth from the parish would use that facility and engage in lots of group activities. The space was limited but it served a great purpose. There were two young fellows who were regulars. They were a delight to have and were such fun to be with. Personality wise they had so much going for them and you could predict them having a bright future. In the scriptural sense their lives were then going in the right direction, they were heading for Jerusalem. Then somewhere along the line they made some bad choices and started dabbling in drugs. They were both curious and adventurous and no doubt they thought it was nothing serious and wasn’t harming anyone. What they didn’t realize is that drugs are part of a very dark and sinister world and have the power to turn lives in the wrong direction away from Jerusalem and towards Jericho. In geographical terms Jericho is the lowest city on earth so they had now turned their backs to the Jerusalem light and were on a slippery slope with their lives going in the wrong direction.

This is where the wisdom of the Good Samaritan Parable comes in. The man on the Jerico Road fell into the hands of robbers who took all he had, beat him and left him half-dead. The first thing to be taken from these two boys was their sense of self-esteem. They knew they were letting themselves and their families down and became quite secretive and difficult to live with. Financially, any few bob they had went on the dope and then these two very bright boys literally became dope heads with no interest in education, their grades dropped and then they dropped out of school. Both of them worked but at a level that was way below their capability and when that happens to anyone work is just a boration and becomes a matter of killing time. So basically both of them lost their sense of purpose and their future was robbed.

During this period they were quite unreachable and couldn’t be told anything. Everybody and everything was wrong but not them, and no one was going to tell them how to live their lives. Unfortunately the kind of freedom they espoused turned into the worst possible form of bondage and for a few years they went around pretending to the world they were alive and having a great time but in point of fact in scriptural terms they were half-dead.

A few years passed where I lost touch. This was when the drug ecstasy become quite available. Then I got word that one of them had been partaking and it had gone wrong and he was in an Intensive Care unit in Dublin. I went to visit and remember seeing one of his dopehead friends in the waiting room, the one who was suspected of supplying him with the bad stuff. He was shaking uncontrollably but pretending to be normal holding a newspaper up front. I realized how abnormal he really was when I saw that the newspaper was upside down. If it hadn’t been so serious it would have been hilariously funny. Going into the unit I felt sick to see what drugs had done to this fine hansome, athletic young man. There were tubes and wires galore hanging out of him and he was on a life support machine. It was not a pretty sight. His life was over and next day the machine was turned off. It was an unspeakable tragedy for his family and particularly his mother who had earlier lost her husband in an accident. For him there was no Good Samaritan on this side at least.

On the other side you would like to think that help would be available and psychic studies certainly suggest that certain souls on the other side are designated with the task of helping such individuals who have died in darkness to turn back towards the light. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the lost that would make a lot of sense.

The story of the other fellow I mentioned is not much better. He became a very lost soul and wandered from job to job until he became unfit for work. He ended up in a flat in Wexford with the walls closing in around him. As always happens the money for drugs took precedence over paying his rent and then he was on the verge of being evicted. The next move would have been to join the group who live under the Bridge but that was a step too far. One night before the Marine Watch started their patrols he jumped and it was ages before his body was discovered with his family left guessing for months as to what had happened.

They were just two lives wasted that were so full of promise and how many times have their stories and are their stories being replicated. Lives that start off facing the light of Jerusalem particularly in this culture can so easily be turned in the wrong direction and it’s very hard to make a ninety-degree turn while speeding down a slippery slope.

The drug scene is intrinsically linked to such a dark world and while so many just dabble out of curiosity it’s so fraught with dangers that they haven’t a clue about and ultimately where it leads.

Teenage years are when kids need to grow in self-esteem but lack confidence. Rather than sit with the pain of simply growing up and learning social skills, its all to easy to use drugs as an escape to get a false sense of being self-assured and no longer feeling inadequate. This is where dependency happens so fast. Every time we feel inadequate or uncomfortable we then turn to the drug and end up needing more and more of it to make us feel as confident as how it once made us feel. The same is true for alcohol dependency and why one in ten suffer from alcoholism but not always in a way that is apparent.

This is where I seriously lack tolerance towards those who condone the limited use of drugs as they seem to be completely ignorant of their long-term effects. The reality is that if a dependency begins in our lives at sixteen and is not broken until we are forty-six then we are emotionally still a sixteen year old. That is what makes any kind of full recovery so difficult. Its not just about becoming clean and giving up the stuff, rather it’s that awful feeling of still being an inadequate teenager but dressed up as an adult and being expected to behave as one, but not knowing how.

While over in KQ I could also observe first hand the impact of drugs over several generations. In the first generation it was obvious that respect for law and order was diminished and any drive to make something of their lives was gone. In the next a lot of parenting and social skills were seriously lacking and there was usually a high degree of poverty in the family. Once children were being born into the third generation of drug users there was literally nothing left. The parents were incapable of parenting them, there was no interest in education. They had no respect in their local community and even basic home skills like cooking and cleaning were long gone. In effect they had no chance to succeed in life. We even had one child die directly from malnutrition as a consequence of drug use in the home. Such is the stark reality of the drug culture. For so many it’s a Jericho road where very few can find a place to turn.

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