Saturday, July 07, 2007

We're the ones who lose out

Growing up, I never was a very outwardly emotional person. However, when I first moved to Dallas and started working at Central Dallas, everything made me emotional. I began to realize that not all kids above the age of 8 know how to read...overt and covert racism is real and takes its toll on people...schools are very different inside and out, depending on the community where you live...some people work really hard and still don't make enough money to survive. These new revelations were emotionally overwhelming my first several years here.

Sadly, I have gotten used to some of those injustices. My tears don't flow quite as often and, strangely enough, I think I have more hope now than I did back then.

However, every once in a while I start to feel myself getting emotionally overwhelmed by the situations around me. I can't say what triggers it. Something someone says or does reminds me of someone and then faces and memories pop into my head. If I'm in public, I get a lump in my throat and I struggle to blink back the tears.

This week our Urban Engagement Book Club did that to me. Randy Mayeux reviewed the book, True Notebooks. As he read the writings of the "dangerous" kids the author described working with in juvenile hall, I thought of so many of the kids I know. Kids who, on the outside, act in a way that makes them "dangerous" to most people, but on the inside are extremely insecure with a lot of self-doubt and self-hatred. For some of the kids, their insecurities can be identified and addressed; other kids are too injured to open up. Many have lost the capacity to hope.

When I got home that afternoon, as I was browsing some blogs, I noticed that my friend, Jessica, had posted a very introspective entry on Everyday Citizen that added to my emotion:

Walking into work on Monday morning was not the same. It was the same place with the same people but the atmosphere and conversation was not the same. First off let me explain that I work at the Boys and Girls club in Greenville, Tx.

Over the weekend, there had been several shootings (5) and stabbings (2) that left 3 people dead. One of the ones who were killed was an 18 year old male known to the community as KD. He attended the club in his younger years. Now the acts of violence has claimed his life as well as 2 others and has affected the life of many others. The stories behind that pretty much say that he had gotten mixed in with the wrong crowd and lifestyle.

While I was sitting there at work, I was able to see the effects that the weekend events had on the community within the club. I saw some of the kids discussing the events and I also heard my boss talking with the kids about what had happened and trying to convince them to stay on the right track in life.

After witnessing her break down in tears due to the events that had taken place, I began to think myself.

We are the Boys and Girls Club known to many as, "the positive place for kids." We operate in the summer from 7:30am til 6:00pm which means we have a time when we are closed.

What I am wondering is what could we have given young KD during his time at the club that he could have taken with him while he was away from the club that could have possibly spared his life? What can we give to our kids that are there now to help them overcome the effects of violence in the future? How can we make the community itself "a positive place for kids?"

As I can almost see some of the kids headed in the wrong direction, all I have to offer is correction for when they are wrong, knowledge for when they are confused, and a prayer for when they are away. With those things, I can only hope that they choose the right path in life and not become victims of a world of hatred.

It's a cold world which is only getting more cold, how can we protect our future (kids) from freezing to death?
Jessica has a lot of good questions that I believe we need to answer.

Though, ultimately, the KD's of the world have to make their own decision of whether or not to do something with the opportunities available to them, we have got to keep working to figure out what is missing in their lives.

I don't know KD, but I know Alonzo, Tyree, Sammy, Billy, Edward, Donnell, Keith, and so many more. Underneath all of the bravado, they have so much to offer us. We can't afford to keep missing out on their gifts.
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