At the Risk of Sounding Stupid…

I got pissed with one of our after-school junior highers today.  Not at him, just with him and what he was doing.  If that makes any sense.

We had a reward day today with the 6 of them, and took them sledding on a big hill in Evanston, then ate at Steak & Shake afterwards.  It was a lot of fun!

The problem wasn’t until driving home, when one of the kids in the 2nd car was throwing gang signs out the window.   The driver couldn’t see, but the guys in my car certainly could.  He was mostly doing it just for fun, or to be “cool”, I don’t know.  Pretty sure he’s not really involved in anything like that – honestly, that upset me even more.

Now, I’m well aware that gangs have a significant presence in our neighborhood, and I know that a lot of youth culture, particularly in the inner-city, tends to look up to that hard-core “gangsta” image.  I know that our kids in the program still like to reflect some of that street culture.  But seeing how well he was signing, something just went off inside me.  These aren’t regular neighborhood kids.  They aren’t the high schoolers I work with at Howard Area’s drop in center.  These are our kids, dammit, and they can’t be into that kind of crap!

I had to drop my group of kids off at the library, but, by God’s grace, I was fortunate enough to make it back to the church before the kids in the other car had left (they were hiding in a room with the lights off, go figure.  Weirdos.).   On the drive back, I definitely had time to come up with a great short speech I was going to use to confront this kid.  Stuff about him being better than that, don’t be persuaded by that crap, don’t even pretend it’s cool, he can do a lot with his life, while messing with gangs could just as easily get him killed or in jail.

Energized by my disappointment, anger, and the fact that I felt I had an awesome speech to give him, I called to him to come back before he got out the door.  I straight up asked him what was up with the gang signs… and, yeah, my “speech” basically flopped.  Halfway through I forgot what I was going to say, and how I was going to say it, and couldn’t think on the spot how to translate the concern in my mind into words in my mouth.   I’m pretty sure I ended with “gangs suck” before telling him to go home.  This conversation may not be memorable for the reasons that I’d originally hoped….

Despite my severe drop in pride, I’m praying that a couple things got through to him.  I was clearly emphatic about what I was saying, which they don’t see from me a lot.  From the beginning I stressed that he was better than that, and should be above that.  And, when he tried to apologize, I think I made it clear that this was about him and his future, not about him being bad during our program.

Either way, I’m hoping that God was able to use some of what I said before my “planned” speech emphasized how dumb I probably sounded.  Oh well.

Running and supervising an after school program?  Pretty easy, for the most part.  Trying to be a person that can, and does, speak into another person’s life and call them to something better?  I’m definitely still pretty clueless.

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~ by Peter on February 13, 2008.

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