Don Boyd: “I’m not supposed to be here”
Shackled down in the back seat of the LA county jail bus, the man peered out the window as the bus pulled in front of the criminal courts building–when suddenly his heart leaped! For there climbing up the steps in the early morning hour he spotted his mother.
Tears flooded his eyes!
Recalling that poignant moment from 1994, Don Boyd relates, “Watching her, it seemed I could hear my mother’s hard breathing as she climbed up that slope to be supportive to her 46-year-old son. Over the years, whenever I had gotten into trouble, my mother always took the time to come encourage me. Now, during this moment of clarity, I realized I had worn my beautiful mother down to an old lady. I dropped my head and prayed, ‘My God! My God! Please forgive me! Please give me one more chance to prove myself for my mother’s sake!’ ”
“I’ve always been proud of my mother,” asserts Don. From the very beginning of his acting out, she was “very concerned and tried to intercede.” When he was growing up in south-central Los Angeles, he remembers her early on “instilling Jesus” in him and his four siblings. Divorced when Don was still small, his mother remarried, and “mom and dad provided a good life for us.”
However, at about the eighth grade, “I became what I thought was hip, slick and cool and started getting into trouble.” What began with “smoking marijuana and drinking beer” progressed to juvenile delinquency. As Don expresses it, “I went down the avenues of addictions.” The behavior “carried me in and out of jails. I went to prison three times.” Yet, “to my way of thinking, I didn’t have a problem.”
When California’s “three-strike law” went into effect in 1994, although none of his convictions had been for violent behavior, Don found himself a prime candidate. “I had a million-dollar bail and was facing 79 years to life! I was 46 years old and had to really take a look at myself. I was scared because I didn’t want to die in prison!
“My mother had instilled Christian principles in us, and, during that hard moment, my faith was the only thing I could grab hold of. I got on my knees in that jail, broke down, and humbled myself like a little child. I asked God to forgive me for the kind of life I had lived. I vowed that, if he gave me another chance, I would change my way of living. I spent eleven months in that jail fighting for my life!”
To his great joy, Don was acquitted. “I’m not going to say I wasn’t guilty, because I was. When I took it to God, I took full ownership; yet there were extenuating circumstances.”
Advised by a friend upon his release to consider The Salvation Army rather than return to his old stomping grounds, Don–in August 1995–checked into the Pasadena ARC.
Determined to keep his promise to God and still driven by the haunting image of his mother, Don aggressively tackled the six-month program. Upon graduation, he accepted a trailer attendant position with the ARC while attending college at night, studying to become a counselor. “I thought I’d be a good counselor.” In December 2000, he was promoted to the position of Director of Rehabilitation Services.
“Sometimes I have to shake my head to see whether I’m dreaming or not, and then I take it to the Lord, thanking him daily–I’m not supposed to be here! When I was small, the relatives would say to my mother, ‘Give up on him. He’s going to be the cause of your death!’ Now when I see my mother, she tells me, ‘Don, God is good! He took you and turned you around! He made something out of you!’ I still bring my mother tears, but today they’re tears of joy.”