Years ago I worked with juveniles. Juveniles who had committed felonies.
We weren’t supposed to have any “hard core” criminals where we were.
And we certainly had a wide variety of kids.
I was constantly being amazed by these kids. Many of them came in with their own “image”. Who wouldn’t? Going in to a locked facility and not knowing what to expect. We could recognize fear, or loss, or sadness more than they realized. Despite what they wanted us to see. Many of them had never been ‘locked up’ before. Some had. And honestly, some of them, for the first time in their lives had cooked meals three times a day, snacks, help with homework, guidance.
Regardless of how bad-ass they were, or thought they were, or tried to be-for the most part they were all still kids.
At least a part of them.
We had great people working there. People who made the program. I always believed that it was the people who would make the difference in a child’s life. Not any of the programming we devised, purchased or implemented. Ten years after those kids left they weren’t going to remember Lesson Three Of Being a Better Person. Or some other such program that I don’t even remember the names of.
No. We did not have a program called that.
But we did have people who came in and brought with them their own ideas. Their own activities.
Ten years, twenty years, who knows-maybe forever after leaving our program each of those kids will remember a face. A person. Someone who took the time to listen. Or sat and talked with them and tried to help them muddle through their mixed up feelings and fears. Or held them accountable for something when all their lives all they knew was how to try and get away with whatever they could get away with.
I believe these people changed lives. Or ignited a spark that later took hold and changed lives.
And sometimes the kids surprised me by being okay with being kids.
I’m sure we all learned as many lessons from them, as they did from us.
One day I went to work and it was windy. Sunny and cloudy. But so very windy.
I just wanted to be outside. Standing in the wind. And feel the power of it. I asked the kids if any of them wanted to go outside with me and feel the wind blow us around. Pretend we could fly.
I was surprised not just that they did want to, but who wanted to.
We went outside. We stepped away from the building so there was nothing blocking the wind.
We put our arms out and let the wind push against us. When it hit us full force it literally moved us.
It didn’t take long for our arms to become wings. And we soared in the wind. Running in circles. Looking stupid. Maybe it was just because we weren’t inside four walls. We weren’t being told what to do by someone else. Whatever it was….it felt good.
I wasn’t working. They weren’t ‘locked up’. We got to pretend for ten or fifteen minutes that we were small enough to be blown around by the wind. Powerful enough to fly in it.
I think about those kids often.
I hope they didn’t forget to pretend.