I think most that see me in action would say that I have a lot of patience and seldom lose my temper. I admit at times I am surprised that I don’t get upset more often. This last week I had a situation where I lost it with one of my kid’s guardians. I know that I walk a fine line between expressing my ‘feelings’, telling the truth and calling someone out who isn’t parenting or doing much of anything for their kid. I truly don’t seek to pick a fight or tell someone like it is but at times it just happens.
This one teen we have known since moving to South Phoenix almost 4 years ago. He has always struggled with his temper getting him into big trouble. He unfortunately is a big kid that gets called names and laughed at. So I know that it is easy for him at times to let his anger overwhelm him and ultimately he picks a fight with someone who is the bully but he gets in trouble. Over the time that I have known him he has been shuffled between more schools than I can remember. This isn’t good even for a student who is able to adjust but horrible for one who has serious issues with self-esteem and a sense of worth.
I talk a lot about how important reading and writing happen to be in life. If you can’t read or write most likely you aren’t going to get a job. The reality is that even to play computer games, do e-mail, txt or do an online job application requires a certain level of reading ability. My one friend isn’t even close to being at grade level. One day recently after church we had popsicles for snacks, which had simple jokes or riddles on them. The six year old next to me pipes out the riddle with the answer. Then my special teen has this look on his face like I don’t know what this says so please don’t ask me and please don’t put me on the spot.
My special friend had been away for the summer because of some family issue or at least that was what I was told. I was pleasantly surprised when he called over the summer and said that he would be moving back to South Phoenix. I was jazzed to be around him and hopefully be able to help with reading and writing. I knew at some point I would get into it with his uncle who has been raising him since his mom is a total druggy. His younger brother had gotten into so much trouble that he was in a group home. He had been dealing drugs for some gang members since he was nine. I got frustrated with the uncle’s inability to get help for the younger brother and the unfortunate circumstances of this little guy living on the street.
My friend had enrolled in one of the schools that some of our other youth attend. I was anxious to get permission to talk with his teachers and have a plan to help him make progress with his reading. I had bought some uniforms for him because his uncle didn’t have any money. I had met with one of his teachers who said I had to get written permission in order to talk with him in detail about our student. So I actually typed out a letter that gave me permission to both transport the student and also discuss his academic performance with the staff. I get a call from the student about needing a ride home. I call and find out that he had lost his bus pass a couple of times already. He had already gotten into some real trouble this last week because he lost his temper and ended up punching out one of the teenage girls after skating.
I knew that I took a chance when I called up the uncle to let him know what had happened on the skating trip. I really had hoped that the uncle would concede to needing help and admit that his nephew had some serious issues. What ended up happening put me in a very awkward position. I had to disagree with the uncle and tell him that his nephew still had serious anger issues that would eventually get him into real trouble. I went on to ask the obvious question as to why he hadn’t given me permission to work with him with his teachers. He had a quick come back about being busy and not having time for this. I reminded him that I had written a special permission slip which he had signed and must have changed his mind and told the teacher that it was ok for me to play taxi but not to have any access to his records or an opportunity to talk with his teacher.
I have to confess that this pushed my button and I was upset with having spent years of trying to help my friend only to have his uncle continue to do things that put him in harm’s way. I asked him if he understood that his nephew read at a second or third grade level and he was in high school. He quickly piped up that his nephew was already getting help and was doing great. I reflected on the popsicle episode and how his nephew couldn’t read anything on the stick, where as the six year old was able to read it and laugh. I expressed my frustration with him not really getting his nephew real help over the years and the ongoing saga of always moving and changing schools had seriously set back his nephew.
I knew at some point that the uncle would accuse me of judging him and remind me that I really didn’t have any right to do that. I explained that I wanted to talk with others about his nephew’s progress so that it wouldn’t be me against him but others who could be objective. He wasn’t open to that so I again reminded him that over the years others had attempted to help his nephew to no avail because of his unwillingness to partner with past tutors/mentors and me. I did refrain from saying other things that would be judgmental but true knowing it wasn’t going to help my special friend at all. I asked the uncle to talk with me at a later date so we could clear the air and be more objective and not just reacting to each other instead of having our focus on getting help for the nephew.
Ouch, I feel like I have been taken advantage of over the years with helping out this family with out any accountability on the uncle’s part. I will miss my special friend and continue to pray for him and be concerned about his spiritual growth, emotional growth and academic progress. God, help me not get mad but continue to learn the lesson of those that wait on You will have the strength of an eagle. God I am so grateful that you can bring someone else into my special friend’s life if I am not to be the one.