Stealing from the Children

I want to say up front that things have been going pretty well these past few weeks. Potluck has been relatively calm, and some new people have been stepping up to help out and lead or work on small projects with the kids. Good things are happening.

Sometimes it seems like whenever I talk about my youth work on here, particularly with the neighborhood youth, most of what I say is negative or frustrating. It’s important to acknowledge that that’s not always the case – a lot of good stuff is happening, too. And most importantly, the small good things happening now are continuing to build the foundation for bigger good things to happen later.

That having been said, let’s talk about some kids.

Since the school year started, I’ve been meeting regularly with a group of Jr. High boys. Mostly I’ll just look for them after school and chat for a little bit, but also we always go out for food after school every couple of weeks. Some of the guys I’ve gotten to know through potluck, but most of them have previously been involved with the church through other programs. Needless to say, they are known, and they are generally trusted.

That is, until, last Wednesday. Things were pretty quiet at potluck, and kids were eating and not lingering in the building for too long. But my guys, with some friends, had something else in mind.

Our master chef for the After School Program was planning to cook scrambled eggs for the kids the next day. His plans, however, required 4 or 5 dozen eggs that were waiting in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this was also two days before Halloween, which is when teenagers all over America look forward to their ritual of throwing eggs at each other. You can see where this is going….

I’m really not sure who actually took the eggs. There was a group of 4-6 boys who snuck them out of the kitchen, and of all the ones I’ve talked to… supposedly none of them actually took them, or knew that someone else was stealing them, and no one knows, or will identify, who actually made off with them. Right. Whatever the case, they all took off through the back door (which they aren’t allowed to use) as soon as they had them. After I found out what happened, I went outside to find plenty of eggs already broken around the sidewalk.

I was pissed to know that some of my guys were part of this. I managed to find a few of them later that night, and made it very clear how upset and disappointed I was with them. Not for stealing, but for being so weak that they would follow someone else in disobeying the rules, and not just let, but run away with, someone who had stolen from us. I was upset that they weren’t even going to think for themselves when it came to whether or not they were doing the right thing.

Although we are still deciding on what the consequences will be, I went ahead and had my meal with a couple of the guys today. I spent a lot of time hoping and praying beforehand. It was a smaller group, which was good to hang out, and it was easier to use Wednesday’s events to open some avenues of conversation that it’s been hard to reach. We were able to talk about what it looks like to be a man, and the tight rope they’re walking between being responsible kids with programs, jobs, and bank accounts, and kids on the street who have already been arrested a couple of times (for minor stuff, thank God).

We didn’t get too deep, but it’s still a big step. We’re getting there…. and it always makes me joyful to see God use a crappy situation like stolen eggs to make good things happen. But then, it seems like that’s often how God works best. Weird. But awesome.

I just hope they don’t think that having a real conversation means they can get off without any consequences, though…. heck no!

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~ by Peter on November 4, 2008.

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