I read a newspaper article online this week about a woman named Chastity in the Daytona Beach area that has been missing for three months. She has a history of drug addiction and had been working on Ridgewood Avenue as a prostitute to support her habit. She is only 27 years old and the police don't expect to find her alive.
This story is repeated in newspapers throughout the country on a regular basis, but what makes this one different for me is that I remember her as a sweet, innocent 15 year old girl that sat in my health class at Mainland High School. I remember how she would come into class with a smile on her face and sit in the 2nd row. She was a good student and I enjoyed having her in class. She didn't seem to have any major life problems-none that she brought into the school with her anyway-and seemed well-adjusted. I don't know that anything was going on while she was in my class for those 18 weeks, but at some point she made some decisions that sent her spiralling down a destructive pathway for her life.
Reading this story has made me think about the people that we interact with and the opportunities that we might have to influence them. I can honestly admit that I didn't give the attention that was needed to each student that walked through my doors-either in the classroom or the church. I didn't always consider where they were coming from or what outside influences would steer them down the roads of life. Even now we tend to keep moving along in our schedules and don't see the people around us that we might have a chance to impact-especially when we are working with youth.
I'm not egotistical enough to say that an investment from me in this woman's life would have saved her from these decisions. It does make me realize what God-given opportunities are in front of me on a daily basis and that I don't want to take them for granted. I don't want to assume that a chance to impact a life today will be there tomorrow.
If we all share that same focus as Christ-followers and leaders we might stand a better chance of saving someone like Chastity.