My friend and co-worker pulled me aside this morning. When he asked me to sit down I figured it couldn't be good.
"He's out there again," he explained about one of the teenagers we've both known for quite some time. "He's gone back to crackin' safes, robbing, and drugs. Easy money."
My heart dropped.
The last time I saw the teen, which was several months ago, I knew the light in his eyes was gone. He seemed to have lost his spirit and will to press on. But I really didn't think he'd go back to the life he'd lived as a young child. I thought he was past that. For some reason I thought being around positive people, realizing he could do just fine academically in college, and working a legitimate job would be enough to convince him that the old lifestyle wasn't worth it. I knew he was still friends with the old guys, but I thought he was stronger than their influence.
As I talked with my co-worker, the lump in my throat grew as I told him about other teens who are also making some bad choices...choices that all seem related to money...choices that are causing them to drop out of college...choices that are going to make their current financial situation a life-long reality. Every single one of them have the potential to be whatever they want to be, yet they fall into the trap of feeling like they have gone "without" all of their life and deserve more.
It upsets me that they feel the need to buy things they want...things that are overpriced and brand name (like a $150 pair of jeans or $125 pair of shoes). It angers me that corporate executives feel justified making $5 million a year salaries and then feel the need to cut wages at the bottom of their companies but don't offer cut their own wages. It bothers me that we have created a society that markets spending and debt as a good thing. It infuriates me that payday loans and drugs are targeted at our inner city communities so that wealthy people can gain money on the backs of poor people who just want to survive.
Today, I'm not sure I know how to compete. I don't know what to do to change a mindset. I cannot fathom what we are up against in order to design a program to counter it.
You can tell me all day that, "even if you only help one child, it's worth it." ...and believe me, I love appreciate, and look up to the Jessica's, Kieva's, Shantaye's, Anabeli's, Erica's, Kimberly's...but I can't rest easy and my heart will not stop hurting knowing that the other ones aren't making good choices...and knowing that I/we/CDM doesn't have an answer.
...Kids are using reimbursements from student loans to pay their drug addicted mother's light bill.
...Kids are flunking out of college because they are unprepared academically.
...Kids are being sucked in by friends who are making "easy" money and are convinced they aren't going to get caught.
Why do they feel so invincible? Why do they think that they won't end up in their parents' financial situation when they are making similar choices?? Why can't they see that many of their friends HAVE been caught?? Why can't they see that dangerous lifestyles with guns, drugs, and theivery often ends in prison or death??
I wish they could see their own beauty...what they have to offer. I wish they knew and understood about themselves what I know about them. I wish they believed in their own beauty and worked from that belief so that the world could see in them what I have been allowed to see.
My friend assures me this is just a minor setback. For today, that's what I have to put my hope in. I have to believe...
the ending isn't written yet.