I was having a good day. A great day. I subbed a kindergarten class today that I have subbed many times before this year. The little kindergarten people shower me with I love yous and hugs when I am their substitute. They raise their hand to tell me, "You're beautiful." After my day with 5 year olds I went grocery shopping with my own 2 kids and cooked them a hearty meal with dessert. I am washing their sheets for their beds in their own rooms. I've been subbing a lot the last two weeks. There is a boy I pick up on Tuesdays after I drop my own children off at school. I've worked with him for 3+ years now. One year as his teacher, last year as a tutor, and this year as a mentor. I pick him up at his house every Tuesday now and then and we get breakfast and then I go to Subway and we get a lunch for him to take to school, and then I drop him off at school. I haven't been able to do that the last two weeks because I've been working. He called three times today, and I knew what he would ask- "Are you coming?" I knew it would break my heart to have to say no again this week because I am working, but it's more than that.
Every since I've known him nothing has come easy for this child. Not one thing. Anger, reading, writing, memory, social skills. It's all a struggle, and it is real. I know it is real. So many things affect him that he has absolutely no control over. Family, his home, dyslexia.
I can barely continue. My heart hurts so bad right now. He was in my daughter's 3rd grade class, and he is my daughter's age.
Three years ago I saw Gifted Hands the Ben Carson Story. Please don't think for a second that this blog is about anything political. It is not. I saw the movie one night on BET, and this boy was currently in my class at school. There was such a parallel of my student and Ben Carson as a young boy. The early trouble reading and writing. The single mother that worked as hard as she could and cared for her family but couldn't seem to get ahead. The gaping hole left by a non father figure. The hurt, abandonment, and anger that came along with that loss. I went back to school the next day after watching the movie and urged my student to watch the movie. I told him all about it. All about this man, Ben Carson. This neurosurgeon. I wanted him to have hope. I wanted him to see his future is not yet written.
I wanted him to maybe see for a minute the possibilities that I could easily see in him even if he didn't. The idea of Ben Carson running for president wasn't even a consideration in my mind then. I just saw him as a role model for boys that dealt with the weight of the world like my male student and so many I have taught before and yet somehow Ben Carson managed to come out on the other side.
So I got two or three calls tonight from the student while I was on the phone. I was worried and called him back. He quit the sport he was trying that we have been talking about the past month. Anger. Impulse. Antagonizing adults. And yes I do see adult teachers that should be the voice of reason, adults that eat 3 warm meals a day, adults that have their own cars and homes and beds with sheets that treat students with the weight of the world on their shoulders in a way that would break the most stable of grown people.
I don't want to hear right this second about actions and consequences because I have seen up close a side that just is NOT fair, a side that cultivates hurt, anger, struggle, defensiveness, a spirit of failure, and squelches the mere will to try. He is just a child. There are so many aspects of life that children have zero say in. You don't get it? Be so very freaking glad. You don't have to worry about having a roof over your head or a car to get you to and from school or the store or the doctor when your child is injured or sick? I feel furious right now. How blind we spoiled rich Americans are that we can't even see the precious ones among us in our own country that are screaming out for help. No I'm not talking about lazy people that want a hand out. I am talking about moms that have been left alone with children and elderly relatives to care for. Moms that battle domestic abuse. Moms that work tirelessly and bounce from job to job that still can't afford a car, gas, groceries, a degree.
I feel so numb and tired and helpless at the moment. I just want to cry. The conversation went from quitting a new sport because of being ridiculed by a coach for not being able to do push ups, to a classroom with constant cursing and bickering that is like gasoline to his already lake of flammable anger, to a suspension, to we are losing our house soon and don't know where we are moving to.
Have you ever had the desire to help someone, to save them from drowning, but all you can do is watch as they sink further and further under the abyss? The endless chasm of the world's problems. Someone you have cared for, talked with, encouraged, invested time, energy, hope in for years but the life raft you have to offer isn't a fraction of what is needed to truly keep them from going under.
What breaks my already broken heart even more is that I took the time to get to know and try to help this one boy, but there are millions in our country just like him. Fatherless, without resources. Without hope. Without an advocate. Broken and antagonized for being so on a daily basis. Angry. Children in temporary homes. Children that have learning disabilities that impair their reading and writing, but they are tested and ranked. They bravely face a classroom on a daily basis where the letters are like a foreign language, and they are asked as adolescents to read aloud to the class. Where they feel discouraged, humiliated, and exhausted on a day to day basis. But they go back each day hoping it will get better. I would be angry too. I would lose my temper too.
This will be hurting my heart all night and each day after, breaking it. Because I care. I have compassion. That's the kind of teacher I was to him then and want to continue to be, but it is just not enough. I don't have a solution. I don't have an answer.
I just ask that others can muster up some compassion for those struggling. To put yourself in another's shoes. To think for a moment of the world outside of your middle class home in your middle class SUV. To pray for my boy, my student. Pray he can overcome despite reading disabilities. Pray that next week he will have a home. A car for his mother. Some stability and peace that he deserves. Pray that when the world continues to kick him down right in front of our eyes he has the courage and strength to get up.