Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Things Don't Make Sense

Dixon and I went to Midweek Activity at the Detention Center last night.  We had a marvelous time.  There were 15 kids in DT and five in O&A.  We did entirely different things in each group. We had to, because of the disparity in the numbers.

Both groups were so well behaved and had so much fun.  It's incredible!  You need to understand that Dixon and I are not some kind of charismatic, dynamic duo.  I am a homely, sixty year old fart with a pot belly and Dixon is a crippled up old Indian with a speech impediment.  What could two old duffers like us possibly have to offer a room full of juvenile delinquents?

The Staff say these kids look forward to our visits all week.  I can see in the Staff's eyes that they are as bewildered about this phenomenon as I am.

In DT we played the sign game.  Each person in the circle chooses a hand sign to represent themselves.  Play begins by a person giving his sign and then the sign of another in the circle. That person must immediately give her sign and then the sign of another, who must respond by doing the same and so on. Anyone who misses their sign or delays the passage of signs, must move to the end of the line.  The object is to advance to the King/Queen's chair.  We had a ball, laughing and trying to trick one another into flubbing up.  Such a simple parlor game; something you don't imagine hoodlums enjoying.  Yet there is no sense that they are just putting up with this, they were genuinely having a great time.  At the end, after sharing Ding Dongs, a quiet girl who looks like she has a chip on her shoulder volunteers to say a sweet heartfelt prayer.  They express their genuine thanks and we bid our fond goodbyes and another evening of surprise comes to an end.  I've been doing this for five years and this kind of reaction never ceases to utterly amaze me.

Over in O&A it is the same.  Three kids have just shown up there to join a couple of "old timers".  All three had hoped the judge would let them go home after a few weeks in DT.  Instead they are dealing with the dismaying blow that they must face another six weeks confined in Observation and Assessment.  They will eventually adjust and even come to love O&A.  The staff there are great!  The opportunities to learn and grow are abundant.  For now though, they are bitter and down-hearted.  Again, two frumpy old duffers turn up.  For three out of five, the activity is an unexpected, unwanted, additional bump in an already bad day.  They join in because they don't yet know they don't have to.  They try not to have fun playing Farkle, but a lucky roll of the dice and they're hooked.  They can't believe we already know their names.  Their confused, quizzical looks fade into relaxed enjoyment.  One little girl scoots up closer to Dixon, not afraid any more.  Ding Dongs are graciously accepted.  A boy jumps up and collects everyone's wrappers.  A girl who's had weeks of difficult adjustment to a structured environment surprises everybody, by offering a long, sincere closing prayer. Hearts are touched.

After five and a half years of this duty, I admit I sometimes have to drag myself down there, but I hardly touch the ground each time I leave.

I can think of only one explanation for all of this.  It has to be the only explanation because it is the only thing Dixon and I really have to offer.  There is only one thing that could build such a sound bridge over such wide gaps of age, interests, cultures, abilities and values - a thing called love.

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