I was driving out of the grocery store parking lot when I saw a row of bright orange signs with bold lettering. It was simple and straight forward, “Drug Dealers are Murderers.” I was taken back by it. That seemed like such an extreme statement. Then I was reminded of all the hateful comments under a local news story about a local drug bust on social media. I wondered who placed the signs, and who those people were that wrote those comments. Had they lost a son or daughter to an overdose? What made them plant a whole row of these signs? or take time to write such angry comments?
My heart ached for those people who felt the need to do so. Not sure if they thought it might help something, or if it just made them feel like they were doing something. These signs and those comments on social media are so one dimensional. They state something without the full story. I know people that have been involved in the drug trade, whether dealers, accomplices, or users. They are real people, humans like us, misled, misguided, doing the best they can, unfortunately involved in a destructive trade.
I was not sure if these signs were outpouring of venom, or grief. I am not judging the people who planted these signs, but wondering the story behind it. I want to know the motive and their possible hurt. I would guess that some are placed by moms, or wives, or friends of someone who overdosed and needed somewhere to aim their deep ache. That feeling of “if only” there were no drug dealers, or drugs available then my loved one would still be here, or if drugs were just legal, then they might not have been so lethal. So many ideas and pointing of fingers, but my mind drifts to my friend and how she changed that for me.
When I first met Tiffany she was in jail for having and selling drug paraphernalia. She told me stories about how the drug boss, a dear friend of hers, would send her places to deliver the goods. She broke all my stereotypes of what a druggie should be like or someone helping deal drugs. She had a deep, loving heart and cared for others, but she had gotten involved in buying, selling, and using drugs. It was her way of life. Many life experiences lead her to it, and she was trapped in a life that was all she knew how to do and her way of surviving this life.
After our initial meeting she lived a few years on and off drugs, trying to do life differently. Eventually an overdose would take her. She was found dead on the Bible she would read from each night to her dad on the phone. She loved Jesus. Jesus loved her. He loved messy, complicated humans, and came for people like Tiffany.
Tiffany messed with my neat tidy boxes of drug dealers and drug addicts. She messed with my solutions of “if onlys.” If only the laws or consequences were stronger, if only law A or B would be passed. She put humanity back in the discussion for me. It is so much more complicated than I could have imagined. These are people involved. She loved her clean life, but did not know how to stay there. The system of rehabilitation is broken, but not completely to be blamed. The answers are not quite that easy.
One thing my friend taught me is that the addict, the prisoner, the drug dealer is first and foremost a human being made in the image of God. The imago dei gives them infinite value. They were created with good plans before time. They were at some point people with dreams and desires and somehow got lost. They are all someone’s niece, or nephew, son or daughter. They are someone’s friend.
It was so much easier when “they” were out there, but once our humanity rubs up against theirs, once we remember that every human is made in the image of God and that Christ came to seek and save them too, we cannot accept such simple story lines and labels. We must connect and fight for each other instead of against one another, whether it be comforting the one who posted the signs, or seeking to help someone know that they are not alone and that there is a better way. Sharing our hope and being willing to walk with them on the road to freedom and healing.