Minnesota winters are long and cold. Eventually spring comes. As the weather gradually warms up the trees grow buds and flowers bloom. Spring is a time of renewal: The birds start singing, the big honking Canadian Geese return from their hiatus down South and the neighbors come outside after being held hostage to the cold for so long. We call it “Spring Fever.”
At Omegon the kids want a taste of freedom. Some want it so much they decide to “run.” Usually the kids run and will go to a friend’s house where they can get high and hang-out. Usually they’re picked up by the police and returned to Omegon. During our Saturday visit Sam tells me one of the kids he knows ran but got caught. Late Tuesday night, our phone rings. It’s from Omegon. Sam and another kid have run. Father Flannigan, a visiting clergy, saw them running and yelled out for them to stop. The boys turned around, waved, and laughed as they ran off. They’re trying to get as far away from Omegon as they can. But they can’t run fast enough. They look for bicycles so they can ride to Chanhassen to connect with friends. But they don’t find any. As they keep walking they come to a church. In the parking lot is a car with the keys left in the ignition. Sam and the boy get in the car, start it up and drive off. For several days, the boys manage to elude everyone and hang-out with their friends. At night, they sleep in the car. They keep this going for four or five days.
At 1:30 in the morning our phone rings. I feel like I’m dreaming but it’s the Chanhassen police department. The boys have been arrested. They are taken to the Juvenile Detention Center in Minneapolis. They tell me the times for visitation – a very small window.
It’s a long drive downtown from where we live. After showing my identification and passing through a metal detector, I’m allowed inside the unit where Sam is being held. When he comes out to the visiting area, he's dressed in green pants that match his green shirt. I ask him, “why did you take a car that wasn’t yours and out of a church parking lot yet?” Sam says they needed wheels to get out of the area. In a boastful voice, he describes the car: A metallic silver Chrysler 300 with leather seats and with a big V-8.. “The car was cool and fast.” After listening to him, I take a deep breath and say, “Sam, there’s only one problem.” He says “yea?” I say “Sam, the car didn’t belong to you.” He gives me a shrug: I’m not feeling any remorse from him. I leave Sam shaking my head. I’m baffled. I try getting inside his head. I want to understand so I can at at least try and help him. I’m discouraged, disappointed and embarrassed. Sam has to stay at the juvenile detention center until we have a court hearing scheduled later in the week.
Meanwhile, Peg, the program director at Omegon visits Sam. She asks him how he likes being locked up. "It's not so bad," Sam replies. Peg asks if he’d like to stay there for awhile. "Not really,” says Sam. She offers him another chance to come back to Omegon and get serious about the work that is expected of him – not just be present but to be involved and participate in the program. She wants Sam to be open and honest about learning a new way of thinking and living. Sam says he would like that. When our court date arrives, Peg tells the judge that she is willing to take Sam back to Omegon.
Back at Omegon, Sam resumes his schooling and treatment and seems to embrace the program. The other boy who ran with Sam wasn’t so fortunate – he doesn't’ get another chance and is kicked out of the program.
In life, sometime we get second chances - and sometimes we don't.