Iwas stopped dead in my tracks this week when I ran into a young man I’d known all my life. I was headed to the grocery store, and found him sitting outside his house in our shared community in the north. Other young men from the area were posted up nearby, chatting and smoking. His leg, or what used to be his leg, was propped up on a stool in front of him. I looked at him in disbelief, wondering what sort of inquiry would be appropriate. The words “What happened?” slipped off my tongue. He looked down at his stub of a leg then turned to me with the same bright smile I remembered from my childhood, playing with him and other children from the area every afternoon after school, and sometimes on the weekends. “Police shot me,” he responded casually, as I stood there in disbelief. “But, I saw you just the other day . . . ” I told him as calmly as I knew how. “I have a prosthetic,” he laughed. As I stood on the sidewalk next to his house I realized that no amount of explaining on his part would be sufficient for me to understand how someone could be so vibrant and full of life in one instance, and physically disabled the next. “That happen long,” he told me. “It’s been two years.” Fighting against my reporter’s instinct, I silenced the questions I knew were near. “You’re all right though?” I said, this time speaking to an old friend, and not someone who’d become yet another statistic. I walked away wondering what had led to his run-in with the law, and when his life had taken the unfortunate turn for the worse. I wondered how he could still smile despite all of it, and hoped that somewhere in the pain that never should have been there in the first place, there had been a lesson, and that he’d changed his life for the better. Above all else, I hoped that other young people wouldn’t have to learn the hard way, like he had, and that society and families and friends would realize there’s never a better time than the present to mean what we say about the youth being our future, and to support and protect them as we should.