Cesar disagreed. He asked them about their families. Did anyone there think of them as a leader? And within the program itself, and in other places, did people ever look to them?
People thought hard. “One man said he had a young nephew who sometimes asked him for advice. Another remembered that people at his last job would sometimes ask how he did things. You could see people straighten up and look more confident, remembering these things.”
So when Cesar told them that they were, in fact, leaders, they listened. His rap went something like this: You’ve got people you hang with, right? People who see you every day? Well, those people pay attention to you, just like you notice them. If they see you acting the fool, they are more likely to screw up themselves. If they see you doing right, that encourages them to do better, too.
Martha, a woman who has been drinking, living in welfare hotels and on the streets for years, started crying. “I didn’t think anybody cared what I did,” she told me later. “Or even noticed. In my mind, I was completely alone. Now I know I’m still here. I still count.” She told me she was going to take care of herself a little better, starting by going to a clinic for treatment for the skin infections covering much of her arms and legs. “I’m going to go back to AA, too,” she said.