Heights resident finalist for Reader’s Digest story

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – A story about a resident’s difficult upbringing in Reader’s Digest could help him win a contest.

Nineteen-year-old Henry Ford Community College student Resul Bahtijari, who submitted a portion of his life story to Reader’s Digest as part of their project, “Your Life…The Reader’s Digest Version,” could win a $25,000 prize from the magazine for the story he submitted, titled “One day at a Time.” Readers have until October to pick a finalist.

“It’s just a little frame of what my life has been about,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference in the world. I want to show other people that even in the worst, there is good in the world.”

Bahtijiari, who plans to open an engine repair shop after college, said his story was a way to let his family, who have been in and out of his life for years, know that he is “still here.” He said his rough childhood, which included being neglected by his parents, began the day he was brought home from the hospital, when his house in Detroit caught on fire.

He said that the outcome of his life, if he hadn’t been taken in by his girlfriend’s parents when he was in the 8th grade, could have gone a different way entirely.

“I realize now that there’s people out there that know how to take care of people, rather than leaving their kids to fend for themselves,” he said. “I’d probably be dead or in jail if (my girlfriend) hadn’t taken me in.” He said his birth parents, who came from Yugoslavia and Albania, had their own problems.

He claims his father, starting when Bahtijiari was in the third grade, began to hit him and his brothers with a two-by-four, among other instances of alleged abuse.

He said his mother struggled with alcohol abuse and since he has lived elsewhere, she has been sober for six months. But he still has no contact with her or his father, and said he wants nothing to do with them.

“He still tries to get a hold of me sometimes,” he said. “I’m not going to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

He said his parents’ alleged neglect caused him to seek attention and a family atmosphere, with “the wrong crowd.” He was arrested several times, for drug possession and violating curfew. He also said he stole to survive. He said he still keeps in touch with friends from that crowd, who he said are not too thrilled with the way his life is turning out.

“They’re still doing the same thing,” he said. “They kind of hate me because I have somebody. I’m the only one to graduate out of my friends, and they were all smarter than me.”

He said being taken in by his girlfriend’s parents showed him that there are people out there who care. He said it was hard to see that there are people who cared about him when his own family didn’t.