We were driving across Ohio and stopped at a rest area just east of Columbus. As we pulled in, Nancy pointed out the sheriff’s van and said, “They’re waiting for you.” We parked next to the sheriff, she went in the building, and I decided to extend my coffee cup photo collection.
After I finished putting towers on our coffee cups, I took them and walked toward the building. The door opened and the two deputies walked out, a young man in chains between them. He was not more than 19, cuffs on arms and ankles, chain in between.
I tried to decide where to look. Finally, we passed each other and I looked up at the closest deputy.
“They’re no good empty,” he said.
I’m pretty sure he was looking at the cups in my hand. I nodded, and walked toward the trash container and then into the building.
They’re no good empty.
I hope that he wasn’t talking about the young man between them. I hope that he wasn’t talking about the walk he was taking with this young man, a walk that was becoming a drive to somewhere.
Did he look at the young man the way I was looking at the coffee cups, useful for a time, but once drained of whatever society thinks is of value, no good? Was he planning to throw this young man away?
I have no idea. For all I know, the deputy was as friendly to the young man as he was to me. he many have spent the drive talking with this kid, encouraging him to look for value, to find something to fill himself with…respect, hope, value, God.. Perhaps he was the first person or the fourteenth person in that young man’s life to say, “you matter.”
The deputy was right about the coffee cups, but that young man, even if empty, is valued and is loved.