An open letter to a meth suspect

Dear Lyndsey,

I don’t know you, but in a way I kinda do – as a reporter in this part of Iowa I’ve written up scores of stories about young people who have been arrested in some drug-related mess or another. I can only imagine that tonight, you are probably feeling like your world has caved in, and perhaps wondering what became of your life.

You were spotted one day this week reportedly crawling around the local Walmart store on hands and knees, thrashing your limbs, and otherwise behaving in a way that no one could mistake for anything but a girl for whom something had gone very, very wrong. You had almost made it to your car to drive away – there’s a frightening thought – by the time cops arrived and found meth and packaging materials there, and later more in a residence in Obebolt.

What a way to make the paper. But, believe it or not, I’m not here to deliver a lecture or a sermon. Nor to presume guilt or to hate on you.

I’m here to tell you that life has a way of bringing us all to our knees sometime – perhaps for more figuratively than literally for most – but you get the point. There’s one beautiful thing about hitting a low point, though – if you can just gather yourself up, there’s no place to go that isn’t an improvement.

Criminals cross our path almost daily in our line of work. I often search for some sign of humanity in their mug-shot faces and usually find none. I see people who sexually abuse children, and otherwise prey on the weakest among us. They are hard, and remorseless, often twisted and beyond salvaging. Experience doesn’t lead one to believe in prison as a source of repairing evil people. More often than not they simply come out as better trained and networked criminals than they went in.

I’m no soft-touch here, Miss Lyndsey. I believe dark, violent, abusive people should be put in the deepest hole for the longest time possible.

But I also believe that young people who have made a mistake deserve a second chance, if they are not a risk to hurt everyone around them.

In fact, I’d be the worst of hypocrites if I didn’t believe a wayward kid still has something worth reclaiming, because I was no angel myself. When I was headed in the wrong direction, with the wrong kind of people, someone cut me a break. Imagine there are a lot of us who could say that.

Your eyes are not those of a hardened person, at least not yet. Those aren’t the eyes of someone who wants to hurt other people. They are a reflection of a girl who is perhaps lost, perhaps scared, more than a little numb.

I’m not sure if anyone has told you this – but you have value. Your situation is fixable. You can still do big things, dream big dreams, have big adventures.

I am told it’s hell beating meth. That stuff is pure toxic garbage, and by the way, so it the person who first gave it to you, no doubt pretending to be your friend. The beginning of its damages show on a person’s skin even at your tender 20 – stay with it, and at 25, they look 40, scarred and withered – if they are still alive. But I promised not to lecture. I’m a dad. Force of habit.

It is a newspaper’s job to report on what is happening in a place – good and bad. And sometimes, simply sad. Often when the news is reported on a newspaper Facebook site, it becomes open season on the person, a literary dissection of a human being. Did you read “The Scarlet Letter” in high school lit? Yeah, like that.

I understand a public backlash in such a forum, especially involving those who are accused of dealing drugs. There is a difference between being self-destructive with one’s own life, and delivering the means for others to be harmed too. But sometimes it seems especially vicious.

You’ve already been called “meth head,” “crap,” “dirtbag” and worse – people are quick to judge, when none of us know more than a small part of the story. I do wonder if they would so easily discard a life if it was their daughter or sister struggling with addiction.

How bleak the world would be if we gave up on everyone who had made a mistake at age 16, 18 or 20.

But I notice that there are people there too, who while hating the crime, are caring about you, Lyndsey. I see people who have been your friends back in school, rallying to say in public forum that you are a sweet, bright and promising person, and that says something. By the way, if you want to see who your friends are, just wait til you’re down. Oh, everybody wants to hang with you when it’s party time, but if you are at rock bottom and a person or two are still on your side, you are truly loved.

At any rate, there are people – some you’ve never even met – who are praying for you and those who have been victimized by the damn drug, and wishing for better days for you, even if it means they get torn apart for their gentle opinions on a website. Thank goodness there are people who believe a person can change. There is only one way to repay kindness like that. Get yourself well, and after you do, reach out and help someone else up. Value.

I can’t even guess at what brought you to the floor in a Walmart store, of all places. Life is a series of humbling moments, and you’ve just had one, for sure. Maybe you were reaching out for help, maybe you just couldn’t go on that way any more, only you know, and only you need to know.

I’ve seen enough screw-ups (a few of them my own) to know one thing, though – the way for someone to begin saving themself is to surround themself with people who lift each other up instead of those who drag others down with them. A person might even think they love someone who is risking and ruining them, but I promise – no one who gives you this kind of hate to put in your body really gives a flying damn about you.

You know, getting caught can sometimes – and yeah this sounds weird – be the greatest thing that ever happens to you. There’s nothing left to hide, after a very public busting, and like it or not, time clears your mind out and makes you see yourself as you really are. From there it’s on you. When you beat this, others will know they can, too.

For all the Lyndseys in the world facing troubles tonight, know that you have the greatest gift on your side. Being young means time – time to put a mistake behind you. Time to turn things and start fresh. Time to take help when it’s offered. Time for wonderful things to happen in your lives that you haven’t even yet imagined. Take care of yourselves; tomorrow is a new beginning.

Dana Larsen is the editor of the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune and former staff member of The Messenger.