The night my second roommate arrived she was crying hysterically and screaming her mother was forcing her to be here. I did not know she would be my new roommate when she came in. Either way, I felt overwhelming compassion for her. I cried silently in my room the first night. I understood a bit how she was feeling. She, however, was going to be transferred to the 28-day program for drug addicted children after a bit of time in Rehab.

She cried that her mother would not listen to her at all. I cried with her while sitting by her and I gave her a few tissues to dry her eyes. She talked to me. I listened to what she had to say. She needed someone to listen. To be honest, Paula was not a person I would have been willing to associate with as a friend before this experience (to say that absolutely disgusts me because of her inherent importance). She was the opposite of me. A drug addict covered in piercings and tattoos. We talked a lot, Paula and I. We discovered quickly we were not very different. We both desired love and acceptance.

Paula told me many stories. She told me how her family rejected her because of her drug habits and every day in the hospital she would take birth control pills because she was sexually active at 15 years old. She admitted many things to me. The most heart-wrenching thing she told me was when she admitted to me when she was a small child her father molested her. She sobbed telling me this and told me this was why she was so “screwed up.”

I read my Bible every day. She noticed and asked me an interesting question. “Does that really work?” Her question was very vague and yet very precise in its intent. I responded, “Yes, because it’s the only hope I have.” She thought for a moment and inquired, “So you believe in all of that God stuff?” I nodded. “It’s totally changed my life forever.” She then asked me an unexpected question. “Can I read some of it?” I smiled and nodded, amazed by her curiosity. She read a few words and gave it back to me. I asked her what she thought. She responded she did not know. She felt like she was happy with the way she was, not her life, but she was happy with herself.

The second week passed slowly. Paula and I had an amazing time together. We talked and would often giggle so hard we would get in trouble for laughing too loudly and being a disturbance. How often does that occur in Rehab? The day we parted and I was leaving to go home, I promised her I would pray for her. We hugged each other in the bathroom (I was not too keen on the no touching rule) and crying, I told her she would always be my friend. Crying as well, she told me the same. I asked her if she had a Bible at home and she said probably somewhere, just sitting collecting dust. I asked her to try reading it. She told me she would try.

I still pray for Paula and Marsha, not as often since then but occasionally. It has been almost ten years since I went to Rehab. I learned some important lessons from the experience: No person is what they seem on the exterior. Great friendships can blossom in the most unlikely of places. There was a purpose for this experience and a purpose for me in this situation. There is always a story. A stream can be found in the desert. Hope in the midst of complete hopelessness. Some people require more digging than others to discover where they find their identity and purpose. Love and compassion for people in their very darkest hours cannot be overstated.

I do not know where Paula is now or Marsha or anyone I encountered there. But their stories will always be close to my heart.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights and fountains in the midst of valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water” Isaiah 41:18

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