Uncharted Territory and the Road Ahead

Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down you can choose your response…. How you live your life is totally up to you.  It’s not dependent on your circumstances, it’s dependent on your choices. ~~ Joel Osteen

I have a young, teenaged friend “CJ” who over the last eight months I’ve come to know. He was far from his home, family and friends and looking for a new life. I like him. He’s tall, 6’4″ personable and outgoing. An all-American kidCJ002a  from a small town in south-central Texas (population 857). He’s been referred to as an “18-year old man.” The reality is he’s just a kid and, like a lot of 18-year olds, restless, self-assured, a little cocky, but naïve nevertheless. CJ has no lack of confidence. The last few times I’ve seen him (most recently earlier this week), as we said goodbye, I would routinely say to him — somewhat tongue-in-cheek — “Stay out of trouble CJ!” He’d reply with something like “All is good” and be on his way. Little did we realize how much trouble he would soon find himself in. Life has a way of changing dramatically with the passage of a few brief moments and seemingly unrelated, foolish choices.

Yesterday my young friend was charged with Murder in the First Degree accused with a 20-year old companion, whom he’d just met, in the brutal bludgeoning death of a man in a nearby community. This is new, uncharted territory for me, something I was unprepared for. I find myself uncertain how to react and even a bit lost for the right words. How I wish I could have seen the road ahead! I feel bad that I didn’t do more. I should have contacted CJ’s parents as I watched his downward spiral. No… things aren’t always as they appear. But instead I chose to think, “He’s a good kid, he’ll grow up. It’s a stage. He can take care of himself.”

CJ and I sat together and talked a lot, many times while I worked on previous blogs. I enjoyed his company. It was an education to learn from him the distractions, challenges and temptations he and his peers live with. I already knew about most of them but, with CJ we talked specifics.

While I honestly worried about his welfare, I had faith in his abilities to conquer his youthful impulses and to find for himself the right path. From his narrow perspective and among his crowd, he was “normal … things are cool.” I understood his thinking but I knew it wasn’t true and I told him so. In CJ I saw potential — rays of hope — and a better life ahead, but ultimately I knew he was in control, as he liked it, as he wanted it. Besides, is it really any of my business? I have my own problems, my own children and who am I? Especially when CJ and I really have so little in common? But then again, No Man is an Island and CJ will remain my friend.

One thing in all of this is certain… no one should forget the victim, Rich Bergeson, whose life was brutally and so needlessly taken and to whom the video at the link below pays tribute. The reality is, there are many other victims as well. Along with all the affected families and friends whose lives would intersect in such a tragic meeting, I am but one of them, and together we cry, knowing our lives will never again be the same.

Another day of work, another paycheck. The future is looking bright.
Christopher John “CJ” Shade, 20 August 2014

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3 comments on “Uncharted Territory and the Road Ahead

  1. Mary says:

    I have known CJ for years as he and my son have been friends since elementary school. He has spent holidays with my family and actually spent about 2 weeks in my home because there was no electricity in his. I never felt for one second that he was capable of doing something like this. My son is devistated as well as the rest of my family. He was a troubled young man but unfortunately he was a victim of his environment. I truly believed that he was doing nothing more than trying to find a new life far away from what he knew was wrong. He was a very talented athlete and quite gifted academically. I don’t know what his future holds but I will always hold him close to my heart.

  2. Patty says:

    Great blog Rick! Sounds to me like you came into his life and befriended him at a time when he truly needed a friend! That must have come as a shock to you when you heard that! It’s a real shame!!

  3. GlenAlan says:

    Oh, what a tragic story, and all the more tragic because it really happened. I hurt for you, Rick, and for CJ and for the victim and his family. This crime is utterly senseless!

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