6 months ago
"Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect - and I don't live to be. But before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean." ~ Bob Marley
I walked through the employee entrance at work today for my 3-11 shift and saw 2 envelopes in my mailbox. I was off yesterday, but when I was in Tuesday, there were 4. Getting mail feels great. Old-fashioned, write a letter, address an envelope, put a stamp on it, mail.
My kids write me from placement, home, jail. I send them cards, letters, quotes, journal prompts, words of encouragement, get-in-your-ass lectures. I used to think the letters from home were the best. These kids were now free, not confined, back in the world...and they took to write me. They tell me about their new days, about PO meetings, drug court, special schools, they ask advice, they tell me secrets...it makes the emotionally draining days worth every minute of it to connect w/ my kids.
One of the envelopes in my mailbox was from R.J. (for privacy reasons I cannot reveal my kids' identities, ethnic backgrounds, etc.) When I started back in September, this resident was already there and had been there for some time. He was waiting to find out if he was going to be tried as an adult and was in a very stressful time of his life. This young man is no angel...these youth are not sent to me for singing too loud in church! This resident was accused of a serious crime - pistol whipping an elderly couple, tying them up and robbing them along w/ two other youth.
When I was first encountered him, he was being defiant and refusing to do school work, chores, etc. He wanted to be placed in Unit Restriction (UR), which is a disciplinary unit for violent offenders. The only time they are allowed out of their rooms is for a 4-minute shower and bathroom breaks daily. By not being violent and simply refusing all programs and treatment, he got what he wanted. He was placed on UR for his remaining time at my facility. One day I was assigned to that unit w/ another staff member. I spent the majority of those 8 hours at R.J.'s door, sitting outside his room while he sat on his desk and told me about his family, his upbringing, his fears and his dreams. I was off the following day, but instead of doing nothing he asked for a book. And instead of refusing ALL his food, he drank his orange juice (because I told him that night when we talked that starving himself was ridiculous and "at least drink the orange juice" b/c he needed vitamin C since he hadn't seen the sun in so long, LMAO).
This resident is extremely bright. Charming. Very "grown" (he's been through a lot, seen a lot, done a lot...you wouldn't doubt this after one conversation w/ him). And he's only 17.
So the day before my birthday, he was sentenced to 3-7 years. He is now upstate at a very real, very big, very crowded, very adult prison. No more juvie for him. My heart broke a little bit.
But I also feel for the victims. Just because my residents are children and troubled youth does not excuse them for their crimes. I do feel that we need laws, justice, reparations, punishment, discipline...but we also need ALOT of treatment, forgiveness, patience.
I cannot get up and go to work every day believing that the youth are hopeless and all is lost. These children are products of their environments, our environments. They are starving for attention, for discipline, for direction, and some are just plain starving. A lot of these situations I do blame the parents. R.J. didn't have a single visit or phone call the entire time he was in my facility. And his family lived two counties over. Maybe 30-45 minute drive.
One of those envelopes in my mailbox today was a birthday card. From R.J. He remembered my birthday was the day after his court date...and he spent $3 that he probably didn't have to buy me a birthday card. This kid has nothing and no one...and he thought of me. The few lines he scribbled in that card made me feel in my heart I am right where I need to be.
For all the headaches, heartbreaks, disappointments and long double shifts, grimey co-workers and bosses who play favorites, some nights only getting one break when I really need four and we're supposed to get 2...the list could go on w/ all that's wrong in my life, about my gig and what I do.
A quote I posted on my FB wall yesterday before any of this went down today couldn't apply more than it does right now: "Concern yourself not with what is right and what is wrong but with what is important." ~ Unknown