3/12/07

Uncertain Futures

Rav & I, when we first started dating, had the usual conversations regarding our backgrounds - where we went to high school, what we did, who we knew. We soon found out that we knew many of the same people, but somehow missed each other. In fact, a good friend of mine from middle school and part of high school dated Rav's one older brother - and I remember when she did. Rav's other older brother was my ex's boss years back - and I remember vividly my ex speaking of Rav's brother. And another older brother of Rav's dated a girl of a friend of mine from a few years past. It was pretty strange. Our state is rather small, so it's not that much of a stretch, but weird just the same.

I went to the largest high school in the state which prided itself on it's athletic teams. We usually won everything, our kids were usually the kids to beat, etc. Since Rav wrestled for his high school & because of the high school I went to, we knew many of the same people. We began talking of a pretty talented wrestler who I went to middle school & high school with, L. L was a guy that a good friend of mine dated, he was one of the quiet, "bad" boys, however, seemed like a "nice" guy, if that makes any sense. At some point, L's life took a rather tragic turn. I didn't know him enough to know his home life, but I can't imagine it was all that great. It turns out that in 1996 (the year he should have graduated), he was involved in a double murder and now sits on death row in our state. Rav and I have sat and wondered how this could have happened to someone we both knew.

As Rav has been the assistant coach last year & this year of his Alma mater, we've become acquainted with some of the circumstances and messed up family lives these kids are travelling through. It's absolutely heart-breaking. A lot of them are in high school, participating in sports, and working jobs to help support their families - not necessarily working for money to blow at the mall, or money to save for a car. A majority of them are from single-parent (mother) homes. And the thing that strikes me is they are, at the very heart of it, great kids. Granted they get involved in stupid mistakes and general silliness - like most of us do in high school. But they really are just great kids.

Rav & I have tried to help out here and there when we can. Really, it's minimal things like giving rides home to kids who don't have one, we've given kids wrestling shoes and just asked them to "show up" as payment. If, at tournaments we notice someone isn't eating or drinking when everyone else is, we offer them a few bucks....things that might not carry them through the rest of their lives, but trying to do whatever little bit we can.

One wrestler in particular, Rav really took a shining to last year. He's a good kid with a big heart. Whenever we brought Connor to practice, he would make an effort to acknowledge Connor and would ask for his "little buddy" if I showed up to a practice or match without him. He was one of the kids we knew that had a rather rough home life. We knew that he would walk ridiculous amounts of miles from his home to school to make it to practice. We knew that finances were an issue for his family. We knew that he couldn't afford wrestling shoes. He was one of the ones Rav offered shoes to and just asked him to "show up".

This season, Rav noticed that something just wasn't the same with this kid. It turns out that the family has been split up, mom and other siblings living wherever or with whoever, just to survive. And this kid, is living with a family friend or relative (not sure which), while his mom lives somewhere else. Rav & the head coach are trying to provide a sense of security and comfort on the team, but this kid just floundered this year - as to be expected.

At the end of the State Wrestling Tournament a few weeks ago, when Rav returned home he was sharing the highlights and the low-lights of the weekend. He began speaking of an incident that occurred with one of his wrestlers who had money stolen out of his wallet, out of his hotel room (which he shared with two other wrestlers and one of those wrestlers being "Rav's kid"). It turns out through circumstances that are too much to get into here, that all trails led to "Rav's kid". As Rav was telling me the story, I kept saying Please don't say it. Please don't tell me it's him.
Turns out that they couldn't prove he did it or not, so they let it go. But I know we all took it personally. I think we all want different for this kid. We want so much for him to be one of the lucky ones.
After Rav told me this story regarding the kid, I looked at him and said S is a good kid. This is really unfortunate. We know what his situation is and most likely he did this because he came down to States with little or no money. All he's doing is trying to survive. What's unfortunate is that if he doesn't pull himself together, he's going to end up a good kid sitting in jail because he's just doing what he thinks he has to do to survive.

It's so easy for all of us to put up barriers between ourselves and the things that are really going on out there. Distance makes things look so much smaller and farther away. It appears as if we are travelling a road that could never take us there.
I know that we can't save "Rav's kid", S. Just like L's wrestling coach couldn't save him from sitting on death row. He made a bad choice that put himself there. But what is clear to me from seeing how many kids on Rav's team that have supportive families that are intact, is that America's kids are in a world of trouble. And I'm only seeing the context for a handful of kids on a somewhat small team.
I don't know the answers. I know that I can't save the world.
I just become infuriated at the idea that most of this country and many of the people I know, seem to travel through their seemingly comfortable context as if this country - our children -aren't in turmoil. People who are afraid to reach out, afraid to see. So wrapped up in their own that they have no heart for someone else's.
I think about the amount of people who protest about rights of unborn children.
And wonder if they give a shit about the children who are here now and are funneling through a school system, a health care system, a judicial system. Where is the rally for the kids who are so broken, possibly starving for food, love, attention, and acceptance and yet are expected to perform appropriately for state testing and to meet standards.

Tell me:
Do they feel left behind?

And yet I wake up and feel like I can't breathe because the weight of these kids is bearing on me.

I have been wondering and worrying about S ever since Rav shared that story with me.

4 ripples in the pond:

deb said...

I don't know what to say. It is wrong that some kids should have to deal with so much, that some kids don't have a chance from the start. It's good that he's got Rav and you trying to help him, it's more than some kids get and it is enough to make your heart break.
For answers, I don't know what they are. Wish I did.

jen said...

you might not be able to save him, but you can show him by example that there is another way to go about this world..and that alone allows for the possiblility of hope.

Oh, The Joys said...

It's wild to me how much I want all the kids in the world to be safe, loved and provided for now that I am a parent myself.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i feel the same for the kids we come across at work. that is the hardest bit of my job. all of us want to just scoop them up and take them home. i used to have to take kids to court (less often nowadays thank heavens) who had slept rough and stolen sweets to eat because they were hungry. i would often cry the whole way back to the office.

the worst i remember was when we went to a house that had been raided by the police. the woman who rented it was dealing cocaine, crack and heroin. she had been arrested and was in custody. prior to this her 7 year old daughter had been removed to foster care as she was basically feral and wasn't getting fed or anything.

we went into the house to take pictures for the court case to evict the woman. it was the usual scene for houses where a lot of drugs have been used. stanley knife blades and mirrors for making lines. bongs. very dirty and wrecked.

on the table next to a blade was a soft toy and a letter from the little girl to her mother saying how much she missed her. i had to pretend to take pictures to hide how much i was crying.

nowadays i know the police officers better so i probably would just cry openly.