A New Direction

[John} was a heavy gambler, frequent drug user, and small-scale criminal. When people welched on gambling debts, John paid somebody fifty dollars to rough them up. An uneducated man, he provided for his wife's material needs, but was otherwise a poor husband.

December 24, 1978, 6:30 in the morning. John had been up all night, away from home for 36 hours, carousing and indulging himself in his unusual way. He stepped into the bathroom, looked into the mirror and splashed some water on his face. Suddenly, without warning, he heard a voice. It sounded a little like his own voice and it seemed to come from deep within himself.

The voice said: "You're destroying yourself. You only take. You must give. You must love."

The voice spoke with authority. Gazing thunderstruck into the mirror, his life passed in review before his mind's eye.

"Like a drowning man," he said.

John saw with terrible clarity his selfishness and other shortcomings. He wept, seeing the difference between his self-centered life and a life of unconditional love.

There were no explicit religious overtones to this experience, no consciousness of God, of Christ (John was born a Christian).

"I was given a direction," he said.

From that day John's life changed direction. A complete turnaround. At the time, for instance, a person had owed him four thousand dollars. John forgave him the debt, then went to Gambler's Anonymous. The "voice" had indicated he should take up his education. A "force" took possession of his life, and the more he yielded to that force, the happier and the more light-spirited he felt. He went on a lecture circuit to various prisons and took a job in which he used his "street smartness" to assist and organize health-care professionals. The pay was poor, but it didn't matter. He spoke at schools, at prisons, offering help -- "giving" -- in whatever way he could. John is a differenct man today from the man he was that last December 24th. The transformation was sudden and essentially complete insofar as the direction of his life changed and a mysterious force took possession of him.

- from Crisis and the Healing Imagination by Michael Grosso
The Quest Summer 1989

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