Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Persevering for justice

My friend, Dave, called to ask if I had any applications of kids applying to his summer program. I had called a few teenagers, but hadn’t heard back from any of them.

Knowing I wanted kids in his program, I went into my email and scrolled through my “student” list to see if I had missed any of the kids I know who live in South Dallas (his program's requirement). As I scrolled, Tracey’s name jumped out at me. Tracey! He’s a junior in high school now....and he's in South Dallas! Perfect!

I went through the numbers on my phone and called the number I had for his sister. “The mobile number you have called is no longer in service.” Darn. I checked to see if I might have a number for Tracey. Luckily I did...

“Hello?”

“Tracey! Hey, it’s Janet. What are you doing this summer?”

“Nothing.”

“Good. You are now. I need you to fill out an application. Do you like technology?”

“Yes.”

“Great. Call me when you get out of school tomorrow and I’ll bring the application by.”

Tracey called just like he said he would. I ran by his house after he got home.

Tavies (his mom) was driving up as I was leaving. I went over to the car to say hi.

“Did Tracey tell you what he is doing this summer?”

“No.”

“I didn’t figure he did. I’m putting him to work. I gave him an application to fill out for a technology program this summer.”

“GREAT! Thank you, Janet! What do you have for Erica? …for Shatavies? Anything? Please keep them in mind! I’m so glad you came by!”

How did I…a White girl from rural Missouri…get so loved and accepted where I am now?? What makes me able to approach someone else’s kid and tell them what they will be involved in…and both parent and child eagerly accept that?

How is it that for 13 years, I have driven into neighborhoods that are suspect at best yet, instead of anything bad happening, invariably a screeching kid (or now some young adults…like Kiesha, 23, did the other day) calls across the parking lot, “MISS JANET!!!”

What is it that makes some parents feel free enough to talk with me about brothers, uncles, cousins, and nephews in prison (oftentimes people who we both know) and give the full explanation about what they did, how they did it, and what the family says about it?

I didn’t grow up like most people around me. I don’t look like most people around me. Yet, they accept and embrace me. That amazes, awes, and humbles me.

I am given privileges with the kids, equal to that of their own parents. I am encouraged to take them with me, discipline them, and get them involved in whatever opportunity I find for them. I am trusted with taking them anywhere from down the street to the top of a mountain in Colorado.

However...

It is because of what I see in the children…the light in their eyes as they discover something new…the insightful observations they make…their comments that seem to be way beyond their years….

It is because the parents’ trust me to move their child to a new level …it is because the parents’ trust me to seek out and connect their children with the right opportunities that will develop them …it is because the parents’ trust that I believe in their children and have high expectations for them…..

It is because of these things that I feel an obligation to parents and their children.

…parents who want to see their kids do better than they were able to do
…parents who want the best for their children, but don’t always know how to connect them to the right opportunities
…parents who are trying to keep their children out of their surrounding environment so that they don’t connect with the wrong people and get involved with the wrong crowd

It is because of them that this White girl from Missouri must continue persevering justice.

I thank God for granting me with such trust, love, and acceptance. Just like their parents already know, despite their environment, their socioeconomic status, or perhaps even their past behaviors, the children (as well as the adults) around me have something great to offer.

We ALL lose out when we fail to educate our children and fail to demand that we and others around us see the good in what the children...ALL children...have to offer us.
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