Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Day I Met a GangBanger.

After I had watched him for awhile.. watched him come in with his black pantyhose and ball cap head dress and baggy pants belted at the knees.. watched him do that special 5-part special handshake and hug that is reserved for members of the ‘brotherhood’… my suspicions were confirmed. Just another gang member.

I had a right to be here.. here at DFACS, land of welfare checks and food stamps. I have 2 lumps that still have yet to be finally cleared by the doctor. I need the Medicaid. (Of course they will be, like the 3 before them, but in the meantime I have yet to hit the lottery, and food banks don’t have medical insurance.) I typically don’t assume that people at DFACS are mooching off the system and just need to get jobs.. I know their stories personally.. and bad things happen to good people.

But this one? His uniform was new. That jacket must have cost a pretty penny.. but of course he probably bought it with drug money he got off someone he murdered. Yes, I’m biased. I have a right to be. You would feel the same way if you had been left widowed at 19 years of age with a baby due in 3 weeks… widowed because a gang had decided to murder the one person who stood up to them when they went around hitting girls at a party. Just trust me. You would.

When he followed me outside and stood next to me under the overhang, I was stuck. It was pouring rain, and I still had another 15 minutes until my ride arrived to take me home. I lit a cigarette, and waited. I knew what was coming, and he didn’t disappoint me. All through his ebonics, which I personally cannot stand-it’s simply bad English- and his hand gestures and slouchy posture, I waited. All through his ‘Yo..check this out!’s, and ‘Get your digits’ I waited. Being hit on by ANY man aggravates me.. but being hit on by a punk kid dressed as a living reminder of one of the worst experiences of my life makes me furious.

I understand the sense of family. I understand that for many this might have been the only path left open to them. What I don’t understand is the lack of concern and empathy towards others. All of my life experiences have guaranteed that if I was to come out unscathed, then at the very LEAST I was going to walk out of the fire with an understanding of how your actions affect others. And if I have empathy? Everyone should, too. It’s just how I am. That’s not going to change now.

Finally.. I looked at him and asked him firmly why he wasn’t in school. He gave me the surprised look that by now I am quite accustomed to. ( I look younger than my years.. it’s always fun at my daughter’s school when the teachers tell me to get in class and I get to tell them ‘I’m a Mom’.) I told him my age… I told him that I have a daughter around HIS age… who was at that moment in school, and had I mentioned that’s where he should be?

And then.. then.. the whole world came sharply into focus. Lessons that God has been trying to pound into my head time after time..lessons that I keep swearing I have learned.. I hadn’t really. I hadn’t learned them at all.
The ‘Yo’s’ became ‘Ma’am’s.
The posture became straight.
Good English replaced the horrific ebonics .

The gangbanger became a boy.. a boy that immediately apologized to me for assuming I was his age. And then the boy became Dwight.. a 19 year old who had been laid off his job and was there to try and receive some assistance so he could contribute to the household where he was staying with his ‘homies’ until he could find another job.

Did you know Dwight graduated from high school 2 years ago? Did you know that Dwight is forklift certified? Did you know that Dwight has a valid driver’s license and can pass a drug test? I know, I know.. but.. I really think he can. I’m going to believe him, anyway. I’m going to have faith in Dwight, and I’m going to find Dwight a job. I’m not going to judge him. I’m not going to judge the clothes and the handshake and.. we’ll work on the ebonics.

Do you know that as I am writing this I can’t even remember if it was the Crips or the Bloods that killed Jason? I guess that part of it isn’t important anymore.
What IS important is that I think I have FINALLY learned this lesson. I WAS STILL JUDGING. Not simply assumptions based on clothes.. deeper assumptions based on past life experiences that make you biased later in life. We DON’T have the right. I don’t have that right.

I hated gangs.. and now.. now I’m looking at them as simply boys that have built up this hard exterior for whatever reason. The walls that we build to protect us emotionally when something bad happens? Well I happened to meet Dwight’s mother when she walked up for HER appointment.. and I think he must have had to build walls very early in life. I can’t imagine having a mother like that. That poor child.

So I was thinking.
I was thinking that all these boys are a great untapped resource. I was thinking that they would be GREAT to have help at the food bank… or at the church.. I know some elderly people that need their gutters cleaned.. And no, I’m not going to ‘use’ them for their muscle and youth. I will feed them, and I will introduce them to people, and maybe.. just maybe.. it will have some affect on their life.. You never know. I just feel compelled to stick my foot in their path right now. My gut tells me this could be the beginning of something great. Did I ever mention that I believe God is in my gut?

As for Dwight?
If anybody has a job opening, I have his digits. Yo.

15 comments:

LISA B said...

Geez. I felt reading this as if I was standing in the rain, off to the side, listening to a conversation that should be heard. I would have pulled my sleeve down to cover my watch and made sure my purse was safely tucked under my arm.
You are something else, kiddo, and it makes me proud.

MilesPerHour said...

God always puts us in places He wantrs us to be, sometimes for reasons unknown. It sounds lioke you were in one of those situations.

Rachel said...

Yo Yo Yo check it right! LOL

What a great post. Most kids join gangs for the "brotherly/sisterly love". It's sad but most of these kids don't parents who tell them they love them and support them; so they join these gangs for acceptance.

I think your idea is great!

hollytwo said...

i'm not going to lie, while I was reading this I just assumed he was going to rob you..
I guess that makes me an ass.

mrs.cupcake said...

your story kinda scared me at the beginning, but the ending was so inspiring.

As for Wedding Dresses' my friends are planning a tea party when we have been all married for at least 5years.... with invites sent out a year in advance so we can loose the weight to get back into them :)

Small Footprints said...

You once said to me that I could change the world ... but it's not me ... it's you and your caring compassion! You will change the world ... YOU WILL CHANGE THE WORLD ... and so many will be better for it! Nope ... haven't had too much caffeine ... just know when I see someone who makes the world a better place!

Thank you for sharing this!

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

sami*stardust said...

thanks so much for this. like you, i try not to judge, but we ALL do it and we should all be more aware that we DON'T know other's circumstances! what a blessing your post is. thank you again!

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Fbb,

I was encouraged by reading this post; very insightful and reflective. It's easy to both make assumptions as well as allow ourselves to fit a certain patterned view or sterotype. It would be good if we all could let go of the chains that bind us.

Thanks for sharing and best wishes for a blessed 2009.

underOvr

Small Footprints said...

Hi! Just wanted to drop by and say "hello". I miss your posts ... hope everything is OK!

Take Care!

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

Small Footprints said...

Well ... I left you a response to your comment on Reduce Footprints but had to jump back over here and say:

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

I wish you and your guy the best of everything ALWAYS!! That's exciting news and thank you for sharing it with Me. :)

Take Care!

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

Small Footprints said...

Hi! Just thought I'd drop in and see how you are doing. I hope good! :)

BTW ... I hope you'll be celebrating Earth Hour 2009. :)

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

moonlights-lair said...

Hi, I'm known as Moonlight most often.

I hope you don't mind but I put a link to your blog on my LJ.

You - inspire me.

Thank you so very much for sharing yourself!

*hug*

Laureena

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Small Footprints said...

Hi there ... I was thinking about you today and wondered how you are so ... thought I'd swing by. Hope everything in your life is grand! :)

Small Footprints
reducefootprints (at) gmail (dot) com