there are those good days when i think i am making progress. then, there are days when i wonder where one of the kids have been only to find out he was arrested, or is in the hospital.
i talked, for a long time, with one of the officers last night. we are people on different sides of the world. my job is to keep the kids from getting to him and his to keep those who have off the streets. i wear rose colored glasses; his world is permanently dark. he seems to think it is all pointless, that there is nothing we can do to make a difference back there. there has been a rash of violent home invasions in the last few weeks. not one of my kids, i tell him. and i am sure of it. he asks me if i don't believe my kids can be violent. oh, i know they can be. i've seen the good, gentle ones high on crack and transformed to human beings i no longer recognize. human beings that frighten me. i rarely work alone at night. this housing development doesn't frighten me. i've walked some of the kids home after curfew and walked back alone. the residents know me and i know they also watch out for me. they know when my car is at the center and it is rare i leave for the evening that someone doesn't open a door and shout goodnight to me. but the development just over the property line is as bad, if not worse, as the inner city projects. there is a shooting or a stabbing on a monthly basis and security works hard to keep their residents off our property. nothing is being done for their kids. my boss doesn't even want their residents in our center. there are a couple of kids from there i let in anyway. i know i risk my job, but my boss has been in the center twice in the last year. it is worth the risk. one of the kids i let in used to be a resident of our development. he stabbed a teacher last year. he was expelled and his family was evicted from the complex. we grew close between the time this happened and he was evicted. his family moved next door. he is one of my projects. i am determined to change the path that was carved for him when he was born into a life that destined him for failure. he has his moments. i've seen his sweetness and i've seen the tattered edges of his violence. i am not so sure anymore, as i once was, that the parents can take the total blame. many of them are so wrapped up in just providing food and shelter for their kids that they not only don't have time to deal with day to day lives of their children, but can't see the patterns. i had a parent tell me once that everyone is quick to say that the parents back here don't care, but the truth is they don't know how. they don't know how to be parents. the system puts them in developments, pays the rent and mails the food stamps each month. some really do want to work. but, at minimum wage, once the bills and the bus fares are paid and the babysitter hired, there isn't a dime left for food. so, what is the point? especially when, if they are not working, everything is handed to them. there is a stigma attached to welfare, but if there wasn't would we all take that choice? if we were raised the same way, would we work? and what of the working poor? they play by society's standards, but they still cannot get ahead. support your family on $5.15 an hour. yes, an education makes a difference. but, some people just do not have what it takes to go to college. pregnant teens leave high school to start the cycle again for their children. i know how difficult it is to get through college as a single, teen mother. when i look back, sometimes i wonder how i did it all. but the odds were not against me as much as they are young, african american mothers born into poverty. i came from a family way above the federal poverty line. it never crossed my mind not have a college education. upper education seems as out of reach for these people as the rings of saturn do to the rest of us.
just how do we change this? is there a program i am missing?
this morning i am frustrated. i am tired. i am feeling helpless. i am the little girl on the beach tossing starfish into the sea, but she has tripped and fallen. no one is around to help her. the starfish are dying and she can only sit helplessly in the sand and cry.