I’m in the office on a Monday in October 2020, calling families, inviting them into the Life Directions Focus Family program. No answer on the phone. Leaving messages. “How’s the recruiting going, Jim,” asks Father John.

“Slow… people aren’t answering their phones.” A long pause.

“Maybe try a different strategy… knock on their doors.”

“Cast your net over to the other side of the boat,” said Jesus.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll try it.”

No one had seen Ricardo much since he started going to night classes. He was so high energy when he was in the Life Directions Peer Motivation group. Let me see if I can visit him. He and his family might benefit from our new Focus Family program.

When I arrived at his address, in Southwest Detroit, I discovered it was an apartment complex. I had no apartment number for him. Darn! I want to find him. There’s a woman on the sidewalk setting up a sidewalk sale. “How much for this Jesus statue?”

“Nothing, it’s Jesus. Here’s another one.” The statue says, “I am with you always.” Hmmm.

“Thank you… Hey, do you know the Smith family? They live in that apartment building.”


I go back to the building. It has two sections and two doors. The front section is locked. I go to the back section. It’s open. I go in. I hear people talking on the third floor. I go up. “Do you know the Smith family?”

“No. It’s difficult because there are no numbers on these mail slots.”

“Right. Thanks.” I go back down the stairs and outside.

I go to the front section that is locked. There’s a young man looking out the top window, which has no screen in it. He was in the window before, but I was afraid to say something to him.

“Hey, do you know the Smith family? They live in this building. Ricardo Smith. He goes to Western International High School”

“What is the name?”


“Maybe on the first floor. One sec.” He comes down and opens the door. “What did you say his name was?”


“Maybe this door on the right.”

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah. I don’t know if that is him.”

“Ok. Thank you.”

Knock knock. The door opens. There is Ricardo and his mother! “Mr. Ryder, what are you doing here?!”

“Ricardo! How are you?! (To his mother) I’m Jim Ryder with Life Directions. Has Ricardo told you about the Peer Motivation program when he was at Western?”


“It’s a values discussion group that we operate in the school. Ricardo was a part of it. Ricardo, I’m here because we are a community based organization. We work in the neighborhood. We’re starting a new program called Focus Family. It’s a community approach to family life, which focuses on the strengths within each family. It encourages communication within and among families. It’s an opportunity for families to grow beyond any past traumatic experiences they may have had. Does that sound like something you’d like to learn more about?

They look at each other. They are both smiling. “Yes!”

“How is school going?”

(Mom) “We’re working on that. He was out in Arizona. Now he’s back.”

“Just stay on the journey. Don’t stop.”

My co-workers Annette and Yolanda will be speaking with families to get to know them better and share more about the program. Would you like to speak with one of them?”


“Tell me your name please.”

“Susan, Susan Smith. “

“Can you give me your phone number?”

“Sure. I work at 3:00. So mornings would be better.”

“Great. Annette will give you a call today or tomorrow. Here’s a Life Directions mask for you Ricardo.” They thank me and we shake hands.

I’m glad there was someone who sent me, someone who told me to cast my nets on the other side of the boat. Please be here for the young people during this pandemic and beyond.

Jim Ryder, Program Associate. 10/6/20.

Posted on 06/21/2021 at 6:30 AM