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June 10, 2005 - Friday, 11:21 a.m.

India.. and Cie-J...

It was just nine years ago this summer that I found myself sitting at a picnic table eating lunch with my sister’s nephew Robin. He’d been talking to my sister’s son about going to school in India that coming fall. My nephew wasn’t too interested, but as I sat there listening to Robin I thought about my son, Justin, who was thirteen that summer.

I’d always admired Robin’s zest for life and his comfort where ever he went in the world. His family had lived in Korea most of Robin’s life. His father was a civilian engineer for the military in Seoul. He’d gone to high school at a boarding school in India. He’d graduated at 16, spent some time taking care of his Grandma here in Colorado and started into college the fall after he turned 17. He’d managed to get a double major at Colorado State University in 4 years, with top grades and a semester in China. He’d just recently graduated from CSU and was looking to give back a year to his high school in India as a teacher, before he started grad school at Harvard. He had many wonderful qualities that I wouldn’t have minded finding in my own kids. I asked him what he thought about the possibility of Justin going.

Robin was enthusiastic and when Justin came to sit down for lunch I asked him if it was something that he thought he’d like to do. Justin’s response was immediate. Yes. At that moment the wheels began to turn and there was no going back. Robin promised to contact the head of the school, recommend Justin as a student and get information on the cost. In my mind I knew we had a LOT to do, if Justin was going to be ready to go in two months. My first concern was the cost. I pulled an amount out of the air. It needed to be less than $2500. Bingo… the fax came back under that number. Well… we needed to get all the vaccinations done… no problem. It was like a snowball down a mountainside. The momentum was tremendous. There was no way to stop it, and on my part no desire to stop something that was falling together so easily. As I began to panic about having my thirteen year old flying halfway around the world on his own. Robin contacted me. A college friend of his from CSU was also going to be coming to India to teach and would be flying out of Denver. Viola!! Now he wasn’t going to fly alone. Justin and Robin’s brother Nate ended up being the only American’s at the school that year, and Nate went home halfway through the year. It was an incredible experience for Justin. It was a big part of shaping who he is today.

This was one of those times in my life that I made a decision and I KNEW it was the right decision even though it was terribly scary.

I got an email today out of the blue. That email prompted this memory. It was from the mother of a young man I met online about five or six years ago. It was a short email with some pictures attached. “Just wanted to let you know all you did for Cie-J has paid off. Since the incident in 2000 he has really grown up, got his head on straight & is a very happy young man. Since then he has done a tour w/Americorps, he's a meteorolgist in the AF (spent 2 yrs in GE) and just got married in Feb.(I just ran across your email address) Thank you for what you did. Without your help he might not have been here today.”

You see, as the anxiety of thinking about having my son so far away, I began to try to reach out and embrace some of the things he was interested in. My boys are gamers. They have been since they were under ten years old (and still are). They’d come across an online RPG game that was multiplayer. It was a text-based game, similar to the old ‘adventure games’ you could find for the PC. When he left I promised to ‘take care’ of his character so he wouldn’t lose it while he was gone to India. I rolled a character and began playing myself before he left. I was hooked. For a single Mom with young kids there wasn’t much going out and seeing people and this game provided an online community to visit and hunt with. It was like a world unto itself, a world of words that became a vividly real place in your imagination. Now a great percentage of the players were kids, young men between 12 and 25, and I ended up becoming friends with a number of them. Some took on rolls of my kids in the game and others ‘boyfriends’. But on the side, they talked to me about their lives. Cie-J was one of those young men who ended up as a ‘boyfriend’ in the game. He talked to me about his life and his concerns about his girlfriend. She was slipping away and he was distraught. He was 17 at the time.

New Years Eve 1999 he started IMing me. January 1st was his 18th birthday. Sometime in the weeks preceding this he’d been talking to me. His girlfriend had broken up with him and was threatening to get a restraining order. He’d sent me a file that was basically a rundown of all the things in his life that he needed to take care of. People he wanted to thank, people he owed money too, etc. He was truly distraught and suicidal. I was concerned. That night when he started IMing me he told me that he been drinking and that there were drugs in use as well. He told me he was going to kill himself. He wasn’t very coherent and the IM’s were coming sporactically. I knew I needed to do something, but I had no idea what to do. I knew his name and the city he lived in, but nothing else. I knew somewhere that he’d told me he was in counseling. I opened that file and started reading it. There was a name in there. Someone he wanted to thank for all their help and that this person should also get some amount of money. I was sure it must be his counselor and I began searching online for a phone number for someone in that area with that name. I found someone with the right name. Taking a deep breath I made the phone call. It was New Years Eve, and somehow this man was at home and answered the phone. I told him that this might sound strange, but did he know someone named Cie-J, perhaps a patient of his? Quickly we figure out that I’d picked the right person to call, and that he was aware that he was suicidal, and he told me he’d take care of it. The police arrived at Cie-J’s and arrested him and took him to the hospital. My gut reaction that Cie-J was serious had been correct. He wasn’t in a good state when they got there, but it all worked out.

I later got some emails from his mother filling me in on his progress and thanking me for stepping in that night and doing something. Cei-J called me and talked to me, and continued to write. While he was in Americorp in Colorado, he came by my house to meet me, and say hello and thank you. I’ve heard from him on and off since then. I knew he was in the Air Force and had been stationed in Germany for a while. Was wonderful to hear he got married, and that his life is good. What a gift to be able to be there for someone in that way! How lucky I felt to have had the presence of mind and the ability to decipher a solution that night, how truly lucky to have found the right person that could actually do something about it when I called.

It really felt nice today to get that email today.

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