Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
One of the many breadcrumbs was an individual named Cameron. After starting a Christian clothing company, I then started an employment program. We partnered with various shelters throughout the country, conducting career development workshops. We not only helped with job readiness, but we also employed them for the day to add to their resume. For those who had no experience, this was a huge help. Within a year, we employed over 98 young adults. Cameron was one of them. We were able to consistently employ him and supported him in moving out of the shelter. He was able to find his own apartment as well as purchase his own car.
Things were really changing for him. Cameron had a substance abuse background, and he stayed in a supportive sober living home for a year. Within a couple of months, after he moved from the sober living program, he relapsed. This caused him to lose his job and eventually lose his housing because he wasn’t able to meet the cost of rent. I let him stay with me for a couple of days, but due to his high anxiety, he left. A couple of days later, he called me, and I remember like it was yesterday. Due to me being busy or selfish, I didn’t answer. I knew it would be a call that ultimately made me feel bad. It was like the times we walk past people experiencing homelessness and make no eye contact because we don’t want to take responsibility.
Cameron left a message that day, and I still have it on my phone. That was an hour before he overdosed, committing suicide. I remember going to his funeral and constantly telling myself, “If only I had answered the phone.” I went weeks playing the scenario in my head over and over. This put me in a deep depression, so I asked myself, “Am I really making a difference. I remember telling myself, “I have two choices. I can either do nothing for the rest of my life and play the blame game or do something radical and let this experience be my ‘why’.” I realized that source of growth is the power of imagination.
Growing up, I had always had the support I needed to imagine the impossible. If I wanted to play in the NBA, my family was there to support me by investing in my dream and putting me through basketball camps. Or, when I started my own business, my parents were the first to invest.
This support in action sparked the imagination of the impossible. I felt if my family supported me, I knew the world would. As I reflect on the life of Cameron and the many other youth I have served, I realize the energy of imagination was not there. Every day for them was survival, and if they made it out alive, that was success. Imagination of possibilities was stolen from our at-risk youth the day they were born, and the only imagination they had left was limitation. Cameron’s biggest fear was becoming homeless again, and I believe this fear is what took his life. Instead, the imagination of possibilities is what would have saved him.
After this revelation, I used the home that fueled my imagination into a space for at-risk youth to explore the possibilities. Within a month, I asked all my roommates to move out and told them what I was doing. They thought I was crazy. But I would rather be crazy than be normal and watch how other people die over small things we can do something about.
My childhood home is dedicated to Cameron because, without his story, the men who live at this home would probably never have a chance to imagine again.
The scripture I quoted is a representation of giving up self to produce many other seeds. I hope just like Cameron’s story, my story will encourage others to do something radical.