About 10 years ago a young person I know lost her driver’s license. One stop for having a joint in her car, one for blowing positive for alcohol. Bad teenage decisions. At 19 her license gone, and coming from a middle class family of six kids, and $1000 plus fines to pay, soon to be a single mom, no way to get to a job, there was no chance to get it back.
She went to rehab, drug counselors—held jobs at times steady but eventually lost because she couldn't cobble together a ride or the bus was late. She never had another problem with alcohol or the law, but the process to reinstate a driver’s license is beyond daunting—punitive. She tried once, and after all the paperwork, fees and interviews was rejected. Vowing to herself there’d never be hope of car independence, she became a master at recruiting others to help get things done for her single mom family grown to four now.
As of four days ago she’s driving legal again after all these years. She took courage to redo all the legal and paperwork steps that attested to her good record during the past ten years. We helped by hiring a lawyer. It took over a year, with having to wait on the MI Dept. of State four months, even after perfectly blameless paperwork and testimony had been submitted. The costs are over $2000 dollars, including an interlock system [breatholizer linked ignition] which had to be installed in the vehicle we’re lending her for the next year of her restricted license.
But the benefits are priceless. She can now begin to believe, with the father of two of her children, that there is a way up and out. He now lives with her in their own place taking care of all the kids while she begins to go to work again. And he is pushing to clear up some minor legal issues which have stood between him and a regular job.
She is very grateful. It’s as if some of the clouds in her life have been starting to break. Keep her family in your prayers.
I know there are people who should never be allowed to drive a car because they can’t handle alcohol. I know some of them personally. She is not one of them. There should be a common sense affordable way for those who've made minor mistakes to retrieve their driver’s license, and with it their dignity in the community, and the chance to make a decent living.
After we've lived on into adulthood, all of us have in different ways “lost our licenses.” We get back on the road only by the redeeming grace of Jesus, and those in our communities who act with the merciful love Jesus teaches.
Father forgive us all; we know not what we do. The world is not made of unlimited opportunity.* The bad decision today has life altering consequences. Salvation lies in God’s unbounded mercy which means we can, despite our shortcomings, live on into some good future, even the eternal happiness we’re promised. Let’s each do what we can to be part of that mercy -- practicing it, making it more present for others.
Illumination by Kathy Brahney
*Pay attention! Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart. -- Pope John Paul II speaking to youth