When it comes to young adults, the arrival of awareness never maintains a regular schedule.
The train of enlightenment and encouragement can arrive at the most opportune time — before a teen makes an irreversible mistake or succumbs to an obstacle that seems insurmountable.
However, if we never set that train in motion, it will never reach the station — delivering the hope so many of our young people need to circumvent life's challenges.
Bill Sims recognizes this reality. A private investigator and former sheriff's deputy, Sims takes an active role in the community and works to help young people.
His most recent effort involves a select group of students from Bible Truth Ministries Academy in east Tampa.
Leveraging his longtime community involvement, Sims has allowed these students to have an audience with some of the area's top leaders, including: Sheriff David Gee, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, Tampa fire Chief Thomas Forward, School Board members Doretha Edgecomb and Susan Valdes, County Commissioner Les Miller, and state Rep. Betty Reed.
"If they meet people in power, I think it makes them feel like they learned something, and I think they can be successful if they take that back to the community," Sims said. "For a long time, kids never got that exposure to people outside their cluster community.
"If they're receiving some kind of encouragement from those people, that's going to bring hope."
That latest encounter came last week when the eight students met with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in his conference room at City Hall. As they fidgeted in leather chairs, Buckhorn fielded prepared questions and told some of his favorite stories.
He shared how his dream of being a naval pilot got scratched as a young man when a physician wrongly deemed his eyesight below military standards. He told of how he drove from the Naval Air Station in Pensacola to Tampa knowing only one person, and how that person moved away six months later.
"Then, I didn't know anybody," Buckhorn said. "I showed up in this town with no money, no friends, no family, and I just started working my way through politics."
He spoke not of his triumphs, but of his failures: of how he lost his bid for mayor in 2003, and how he persevered and came back to win.
"Everyone told me that there was no way you're going to win," Buckhorn said. "You can't beat the folks that are in this race. You had your chance. You can't come back.
"I told them, 'Look I don't fear losing because I know what losing feels like.' Just like in your life, things aren't going to always go the way you want, but if you really believe in what you want to do, it doesn't matter if you get knocked down because you gotta get back up."
These were familiar anecdotes from Buckhorn's campaign stump speeches, but I hope they resonated with these students in a different way.
In the immediate aftermath of the meeting, they may not realize Buckhorn planted seeds of hope. They may not fully understand the significance of meeting all of these influential leaders.
However, if their dreams end up at the crossroads of despair and desire — maybe Buckhorn's words will flash forward — reminding them they can overcome.
Maybe that train will arrive right on time.
That's all I'm saying.