The young boy looked around furtively, unsure of his mission. The streets were empty, the house on the corner foreboding. His father asked him to take a small plastic bag to the man. The instructions were simple enough. Just knock on the door, hand him the bag, and he will give you a package. Bring that back to Daddy.
That was the day Keron Jackson unwittingly completed his first drug deal.
Such was life in the Prince Hall projects of Fort Worth, Texas. Keron lived in the section known as Stop Six; the final stop sign signaled you were in one of the worst, most crime-infested dead ends in the city.
To say his home life was dysfunctional would be the understatement of the year, right up there with saying Al Capone wasn’t that great of a role model. Keron’s dad was an abusive drug dealer but somehow managed to avoid jail time. He was largely invisible, and that was fine with Keron because anytime his dad showed up, trouble wasn’t far behind.
His mom tried hard to provide for Keron and his sisters by working as a hair stylist. But she had a dark side that showed up every time his dad did.
That dark side was crack cocaine.
She’d be gone for weeks at a time when she was using. Once, when Keron was 12, she was gone for six months, leaving him and his sisters to fend for themselves while staying at a local crack house. Keron remembers wandering the streets looking for his mom in some of the neighborhood drug houses. During that season, he and his sisters learned to shoot a gun and to steal whatever it took to survive. His mom eventually died in prison.
Keron’s Almost Fresh Start
Keron ended up with his grandparents and stayed with them through middle and high school. He enjoyed a little more stability but always felt like he was an imposition. He probably would have ended up as another high school dropout except for one thing: a theater teacher who believed in him and helped him realize his potential as an on-stage performer. He ended up graduating from high school with several awards and actually got a college scholarship.
But even after he arrived on the campus as a freshman, he couldn’t seem to escape his past. He returned to stealing for survival and eventually he dropped out. Now homeless and living out of his car with no place to call home, he went back to the only life he understood: drug dealing on the streets.
Soon he was back running with the old gang doing whatever it took to survive.
“We sold drugs to get a car, jewelry, and a girl,” said Keron. “It’s all we knew.”
Even though everyone he knew who lived that life either went to jail or died, Keron felt he had no other choice. And he knew unless something changed, he was headed for the same fate. But God had a different plan.
He sent someone. (Which often seems to be God’s plan, by the way.)
Actually it was a series of someones. It started with a friend who encouraged him to give college one more try and convinced Keron to apply at a junior college to pursue theater and song.
The next someone was an administrator at the college who took the risk to approve his application and help him get started. However, Keron was homeless, and living out of a car was no way to restart your academic career. So this same administrator took another huge risk. He asked Keron to move in with him and his wife and live at their house.
“What do you mean, move in with you?” Keron responded incredulously. “I’m black!”
But the man insisted, and Keron Jackson found a new home. And, not to mention, a family.
This family shared Keron Jackson’s story with other folks in the community, which led to a job mowing yards to help him with school expenses. The man who offered him the job also invited him to church. In all honesty, Keron said, “I thought to myself, church schmurch. I don’t need no church!”
But since he wasn’t very good at mowing lawns, he thought it might be a good idea to go for the sake of job security.
Now, you need to understand that this church was an all-white congregation in rural east Texas. It was potential recipe for racial disaster. But the man’s Sunday school class took Keron under their wing and adopted him as their own.
And then another someone. When one of the ladies, a music teacher, found out about Keron’s singing ability, she invited him to sing at church. Keron immediately turned her down. But when she said she would make him a sandwich, she found the key to his heart. Keron couldn’t say no.
His first solo mirrored the story of his life: “Amazing Grace.”
That community from the rural Central Baptist Church in Texas showed Keron what true love looks like. First they cared for his physical needs—a home and a job. Then they cared for his spiritual needs. And his life wouldn’t continue on the path it started on.
About a thousand sandwiches later, Keron found himself buried in invitations to sing all over the world. Last year he sang a solo to a sold-out Carnegie Hall and received a standing ovation for his performance. And what did he sing? A song called “Not Too Far From Here.” It’s about a person who’s lonely, in crisis and in desperate need for someone to show up and care. Just someone.
Keron Jackson’s life was changed dramatically, not by programs or money, but by people.
A theater teacher.
A school administrator.
A local businessman.
A Sunday school class.
A music teacher.
Regular people who cared enough to take some risks and engage relationally. Some where white and some were black. Some were men, and some were women. The only thing they had in common was a love for Jesus and for someone in need.
You want to know the solution to drugs, crime and poverty?
You are. Because you’re someone.