Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 21, 1998

Harold Keller / L’Observateur / March 21, 1998

‘Hello, Mr. Keller, it’s me. I’m in trouble again.’

In December 1984, I spoke to five different classes at Hahnville Junior High School. Mrs. Geri Drudge was the counselor at the time. I receivedmany letters from students that attended the sessions, which I still have.

In one of the classes was a young boy sitting on the middle row in the last seat. I still remember what he wore. He had a solid black shiny shirt withmatching pants. He didn’t respond to my talk very well. I detected that hedidn’t especially care for me. He never smiled and seemed lonely andunhappy.

I spoke briefly to him after the meeting. His name was David Ledet. Davidand I crossed paths many times after than initial meeting. In fact, he wasin one of our S.W.A.C. (Students Who Are Concerned) groups that we heldweekly at the school.

David was always in trouble. He used drugs, listened to music that Icondemned, but for some reason, he would always call when he was in trouble.

David never finished high school. I directed him to Teen Challenge in HotSprings, Ark., on two occasions. He lasted one day the first time and oneweek the second. He had a few menial jobs, but nothing steady.In 1992 David disappeared and I lost touch with him.

In October 1996, I had a surprise phone call from David. He was inHammond. After asking if I remembered him, he said excitedly, “Mr. Keller,I got saved!” “What do you mean?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know what being “saved” meant. “I asked God to forgive me and asked Jesus into myheart,” he answered. Never before had I heard David so happy!In our conversation, he shared with me that for the last four years he had been in New Mexico and Arizona, using drugs and living from day to day.

The next day I called Mrs. Drudge, now at Hahnville High School, to tell herthe good news. She was ecstatic!During the next four months, David came to LaPlace and visited me. Heattended church regularly and visited a few of his friends to tell them what Jesus had done for him.

He had a good job for the first time in his life. He had a car that his step-dad and mother helped him with.

Once he told me, “Mr. Keller, Jesus is so good! I can’t believe how my lifeis now. It’s great!”After about four months, David shared with me a sin he had committed. Iassured him that God would forgive him for anything. David knew that, butwas condemned and could not forgive himself.

He later called me and said that he went back to drinking and had a DWI. Heasked if I could get him in Teen Challenge again. I said, “Yes.” On a Sundaynight at midnight, he boarded a bus in Hammond, destination – Hot Springs, Ark., and Teen Challenge. David stayed a week and left. He hitchhiked toArizona, maybe ashamed to return home where he would’ve been met with open arms. This was in April 1997.I didn’t hear from David anymore, but his mother called last month. Davidwas in jail and he wanted to know if I could help him again when he got out. I told his mother that I would and also told her to ask him to write.Tuesday, March 17, I received a call from his mother. “David died lastnight, Mr. Keller,” she said. “He overdosed on drugs and died in a bathroomin Phoenix, Ariz., with a spoon, a rubber hose and syringe by his side.”I felt empty. All I could think of was 1984 and that lonely little boysitting on the middle row in the last seat with the all-black outfit.

For a moment, I was mad at David. “Why didn’t he write?” I questioned. Ialso felt guilty. Maybe if I had said something different. I loved David. He was my buddy. I loved David as my very own son. “Why, God?” I asked. Goddidn’t answer.

Tuesday morning, I asked David’s mother about the funeral arrangements.

That afternoon, at about 4 p.m., in my mailbox, under some junk mail, wasa letter from David, postmarked Feb. 9. Allow me to share a few linesfrom that letter.

“Hello, Mr. Keller. It’s me, David. I’m in trouble, as usual. I am in jail, butat least I’m trying to serve God.

“The last year I’ve been on a cocaine and heroin run like never before. Iwas killing myself. I was homeless, dirty, lying, stealing and doingexactly what the devil wanted me to do.

“I want to build a relationship with God. I’ve had so many chances in mylifetime, but I always seem to mess up. My heart has been hardened, but Ipray God will forgive me. I really want to be a man of God.Mr. Keller, you are one of the very few friends that I have. To be honest,you are my only friend. I always respected you and I love you. Please write.Love, David.”I don’t cry much, but the next morning, I wept like a baby.

The Bible says only God knows a person’s heart. David died like he lived -lonely. Only God knows what went on in that bathroom in Phoenix, Ariz.last Monday night.

I’ll miss my buddy. Thanks, David, for being my friend.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

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