Friday, November 16, 2007

Thinking out loud ...

I've talked before about the little fellow that I eat lunch with once a week.

We are very different. I am Caucasian and he is African-American. He is from a single parent home while I was blessed enough to have a father in my life. He lives in dire economic circumstances. I'm hardly wealthy but I get by. Today he told me that his family's hot water has been off for months.

In regards to that last statement, I am troubled. His teacher and others have informed me that he lies. And I get the feeling that he tells me what he thinks I want to hear. So did he make that up, too?

I don't know what to do. He gets in trouble at school, sporadically -- but how long until little boy outbursts become teenage rages, how long until the trouble becomes serious?

I've never been a father, although I would have liked to have been. All that I know about kids I've had to learn from watching others interact with children. That's like trying to be a good driver just from being a passenger.

It's clear to me that just seeing this child once a week at lunch is not helping him very much.

But he lives in the city where I work; and I live far away in the county. I can't just casually drop by his house and say, "Hey, 'Timmy,' wanna shoot some hoops?" Or can I?

Perhaps I need to do more to befriend his mother. But how to go about that?

His teacher suggested today that he needs a mentor. I thought I was being a mentor. There's a group in the city, "Concerned Black Men of [my city]," she said, who could help him. So should I turn him over to them and admit defeat? Can they relate better to him than I have been able to do? Doesn't it smack of racism to suggest that people always do better with their "own kind?"

The only thing that I know for sure is that I do not want to see him make choices to ruin his life like the last child I tried to help, years ago.

11 comments:

PixieDust said...

The interest you show in this child, the time you take to have lunch with him are not little things... sometimes we have no one, and it only takes one person to care and let us know that we belong, that if we were gone from this world someone would think of us...

It is not easy knowing where to draw the line, when compassion becomes interference, but we have to remember that compassion is always right, that time invested in people especially a child that might have no one to connect with is worth its wait in gold.

There is never an "excuse" for violence (whether the offender is a child or not), but sadly there are often so many "reasons" for it. I watched many a friend self-destruct because of broken homes, gangs, drugs, and it is frightening that looking back some of what separated me from them, what saved me from ending up like them was luck... something I didn't have a lot of to begin with growing up, so we are talking "slim luck" at best...

Sorry I've written a novel here, but to cut to the chase... if this child is saved a part of it will be because you took a few minutes out of your day to "see" him.

You are a great man...

:-)

eastcoastdweller said...

Pixie, I guess what troubles me is the "if" factor.

As in "if the child is saved."

I've got to do something to make that "if" become a sure thing.

Somehow. Someway. I failed to change a life once before -- I observed a sweet, intelligent child in a horrible home setting grow up to drop out of school, jump into drugs and become a repeat of his jailbird father.

...Kat said...

you never know how even just one moment can mean the world and the future to someone... to a child as well.... as a single lighthouse on a rocky shore can be enough to give safe passage and avert disaster

the more attention and positive influences one can have then the deeper the foundation for the spirit one is building within and any connection, however brief and superficial it may appear, is not... it is special and important and not to be lost.

my brother-in-law mentors young boys...
I remember one story he told me that gave him some insight into the complexities of their lives...

the boy got into a fight on school grounds...my brother-in-law asked Now why fight when surely you all would be caught since you were at school....and the young man said fighting at the school offered 'some protection' since meeting up elsewhere might then involve weapons being brought to the scene and a more deadly encounter.

It is wonderful that you care and are involved and it is natural to want to do more and natural to feel ineffectual when considering what the boy is up against... but as I said What You Do does matter more than you realize.

Janice Thomson said...

You are probably the one constant in his life at the moment. If you catch him in an out and out lie you can deal with it then. Till then perhaps you could just continue as you have been doing. The compassion you show him and wise words may affect him more than you realize and if he seems to be headed for trouble it could be your words he remembers that will stop him. How rare to find someone who cares so much.

Princess Haiku said...

I would say, shoot those hoops. In my experience people who are better qualified to help are often missing in action. You don't know what seeds of goodness you will plant that will come out later in this child's life or maybe in his child's. Children have vivid memories. I remember being five years old and a elder neighbor lady who use to give me daffodils or other special flowers on my way to school. I would be able to present my flower to my teacher with fanfare. The joy of those daffodils reblooms every spring. Who would have though. About the mom...mentor's need boundaries. I have been a mentor and run into difficulties too. Guess it's part of the territory.

Laura Stamps said...

Don't underestimate the time you spend with him at lunch. I'll bet he looks forward to it all week, but would never admit it to you or to anyone else, even himself.

You can't possibly understand the dynamics of his situation or the culture he is growing up in. To undertand it would make you a different person. But what you have to offer him is more important. You offer him a different perspective. How? In the way you smile, the glow of your aura, the way you sit and walk, the things you are interested in, even your voice. Those are the things that mean the most to kids.

I grew up in a very abusive family. But you know what? The adults I remember, the ones who had the most influence in my life, were the ones I saw from time to time who "walked their talk." And I still remember them today. Most didn't spend a lot of time with me, maybe only once a month or less. Yet who they were spoke volumes to me, something you never forget. And when things were dark when I was a kid those were the people I would think about. I would ask myself: what would they do in this situation? So they were great mentors to me, yet they never knew it.

And the same thing happened to me when I went back for my 10 year high school reunion. Several people came up to me to thank me for helping them or being a good example to them. Most of the situations that meant so much to them I didn't even remember. But they did and still do.

And that's the way it is with kids. Just being there every week is speaking volumes to this boy. You can't save every child. But the important thing is to walk your talk and never stop trying to save them. That is the best any of us can do.

Much love to you and many faery blessings!

eastcoastdweller said...

You've all been so comforting. I appreciate that.

I talked late yesterday with the director of volunteers at the school and found out that there is a certain time during the school day that I will be able to work with him directly, without interrupting his instruction or being distracted by other kids such as happens during the lunch hour.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

First, thanks for caring enough to spend time with this kid. It is probably true that someone from the same background will better understand his circumstances and social background. However, that is no big disadvantage if we are willing to give our time and learn. I wish you and him the best.

Chase March said...

The most important thing to spend on any kid is time. One person who shows compassion and caring in the life of a child can make all the difference in the world. I would caution against going to his house unannounced. Working with programs that already exist is a much safer alternative. Working within the school is a great thing for you to do. Kicks and Kudos for all that you are doing!

ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

There is no defeat involved here, I think you are to emotionally concerned as a caring Person and a Friend. I’d suggest recommending the Group to your Friend, it is best he seeks their help for one must want help first before they can be helped. If he does not seek their guidance than he is either not ready or not sincere. As for the Group or the Fellow, neither have anything to do with doing ‘better with their "own kind’. This organization would surely help out those whom weren’t African-American. Rather, the Group themselves regardless of race, merely serves as a positive influence in the Community, a symbol of hope, etc.

Molly said...

I think all that matters here is that you are human, not how or where you grew up, or what colour your skin is; and you treat him as a fellow human---not a number, or a statistic, or a trouble maker,but a unique individual. And you care.....