By Marion Ali
If you read the Reporter’s Facebook post on Saturday about Hezron McLaughlin – a man who had come to a woman’s aid after her market bag had burst and she was left struggling to gather her goods from off the street, you’d have known that McLaughlin is just an ordinary man trying to do right. But while his deed seems for many as nothing more than courtesy extended, Hezron has been through some dark days and has tried to change from a life of crime to a life of earning his keep, despite the challenges. The 37-year-old father of two young children, aged 10 and 8, will tell you that he is the living testament of a street bum turned man of hope.
Hezron grew up in a large family with rough beginnings. He is the man who, at the age of 11 started to do drugs and alcohol; and at age 13, quit school and moved out of his mom’s house. He eluded the authorities for years while engaging in a life of crime until later on, the street life pushed him into committing bigger offences and he started to get arrested and charged. All he wanted was money to buy clothes and more drugs and alcohol.
He is also the man who went to prison. By the age of 19, his rap sheet was as long as an outstanding fourth former’s list of CXC passes. The street life saw him get charged a dozen times for transgressions committed against others. Then, he was convicted of burglary and served a five-year sentence. Those days and nights behind bars were his most challenging, he told us, but the lesson learned from that is what he feels has helped him to turn his life around.
Hezron is a man of regrets. He has found out that the streets do not uplift one’s image. Since his release from prison in 2009, he has tried to “walk the straight and narrow,” but he has found out that getting rid of the ghosts of those misdeeds in his youth has been hard to do. He says his police record has hindered him from becoming gainfully employed. He settled down with a woman and their union produced two children, but he says that his years of crime have tarnished the relationship between him and his young daughter. Now, winning her good graces is something he strives for every day. He shared with us that he tries his best with what he makes to provide for his children what a hard childhood never afforded to him.
For the past ten years, Hezron has been helping his mother-in-law, Sylvia Dominguez at her market stall dubbed “Friendly Belizean Stall” located beside the bus terminal on West Collet Canal in Belize City. Together they sell fruits, pastries and lunch. From my observation of the way they talk to customers, the name of the stall is apt.
On Saturday when I needed help and couldn’t get that help from a nearby vendor, Hezron, who had witnessed the incident from several yards away left what he was doing to offer that help. Helping out people in times of need is something he also tries to do for others now, he says, because it helps him to live with the regret he feels for the injustice he perpetrated in his younger years. He says he hopes the youths who are committing crimes now will learn from his mistakes before they have to endure the consequences he has had to because of his. Thanks for the help, Hezron!