He told us a story about being in the park, seeing a trio getting out of their car, putting purses in the trunk, then going for a walk. One was a grandmother, one was about three, and the other, he guessed, was probably The Mom. In the few minutes he saw them, they walked into his heart, even though he didn't know it yet.
Months later, on a sunny August day, he is in jail, sitting in a church service on 2 West. He's sober now, all the drugs finally out of his system. And he's crying. Not sobbing, but the tears just keep coming.
He's remembering that trio in the park. "For the first time," he says, "I don't just see them. I see my mother, my grandmother, my daughter. For the first time, I know that I would never inflict on my family what I did to those people in the park." He'd broken into the car, he confessed, had stolen their money and credit cards. Used it all to feed his drug habit.
"I have a gift for crime," he says. "Anything you want, I can walk down the street and get it. Half an hour, I'd be back, giving you an iPod, laptop, shoes, you name it. I can get anything. It's a gift." He twists the songbook in his hands and swipes at the tears on his face.
"I don't understand why I'm crying all the time. Day or night. I've never cried like this in my life. I feel bad about what I did to those people in the park, and all the other people I've stolen from and hurt." His voice breaks as he struggles for words. "Why does it hurt so much?"
Someone offers, "Maybe you're feeling your conscience again." We all consider that truth.
"I think maybe your heart got really hard, like a rock, over time. Your tears are softening your heart, breaking it open again. Your heart is healing. You are healing."
He only nods and cries more. Around the small circle, we consider this gift of tears and pray that God will be as merciful to the rest of us.