Radial Alertness: To be Continued…

(Continuing on yesterday’s observation of the youth I saw at our town’s farmer’s market)

I had to do something. Not when I get home. Not when I get my degree. Not when I meet with our pastoral staff. Not when I have more time. Not when I have more resources. I had to do something NOW.

I was sitting at a table waiting my my order, and to the right of me was a group of about 7 kids. I say kids because one of them was about 10yrs old while the rest went up to the age of about 16. They were all Hispanics uniformed with black Dickies and extra large white tee shirts. Most of them had crew cut hair styles, and at least two had several faded blue-toned tattoos. I was talking to my friend, but I was also paying attention to the conversation among these boys. The eldest sat at the far end of the table while the rest sat around the sides. I noticed that they had only two plates. That oldest one, seemed to be their leader or something because he was eating a plate by himself while the rest shared the other ones. They talked about a girl that was passing by and how “hot” she was. One of them said she was in their PE class. Inside jokes were make, of which I could not hear clearly, but they all laughed. Their vocabulary included lots of informal language as well as cursing. They felt empowered by their secret hand shake, and the ‘throwing’ of their gang’s sign.

My friend said that I should not let these things get to me. But you see, how could I not? They are my people. When one is pointed out, we are all included. My parents taught me to value and respect my culture and my Mexican roots. They are part of me. I thought of the motives of why these kids were the way they were. I though about their parents working hard in the fields to give them a “better” life than their own. Yet, they are failing at it. Striving to keep them out of financial poverty has only led them to that because these youth do not know the value of hard work. These youth do not understand the value of an education. These kids are not aware that their “gangs’ta bros” will not support them in their time of need. Parents miss out on their kids school conference to put a piece of fish on their table. However, when they are gone, their kids will either starve to death or steal to eat. My father said to me once that the best thing I could do was to show my kids how to “fish” because then they would never starve. (Neither of us know how to fish). He was talking about teaching my kids how to do things on their instead of handing them everything. I value the life I have now and the life I am striving for because I know where we came from.

Nonetheless, here I was minding my own business (kinda), and a deep compassion stirred inside of me. I wanted to shake some sense and love into these boys’ hearts and mind. But I could not do that. I was a stranger. I mean how crazy would it look if I just went up to them and started a conversation? What if they mock me? I remembered Moses. God called him to go and free His people from the yolk of slavery. Moses reluctantly doubted it was he who was supposed to go as he had nothing but a staff in his hand. Yet, it was with that that God worked great feats in His name. I reached for my pockets. All I had was a 10 dollar bill. I was saving it to buy fruit for my trip. I thought about it once, twice, and at the third time I got up and approached them. I was thinking, “What are you doing? What will I say? What if….?” I said, “Hello!” They all turned to me as if I were crazy for addressing them. They smiled and laughed among themselves. I took out the ten dollar bill and said that I had a ten dollar bill for the one who would answer me a set of questions. They doubted a little but accepted the challenge. I asked them what did they plan to do after graduating high school and how would they accomplish it. They made sarcastic “funny” remarks and laughed. The “leader” said, “I want to die for my fellow neighbor.” I asked if he wanted to enlist in the Marines or Army, but he responded sadonically, “Nah, man! I want to serve and die for my homeboys and barrio (hood)!” Everyone laughed. The youngest said that they needed to get straight A’s to get a good job. “It’s not about getting straight A’s. It’s about getting an education, whether it is at a 4 yr college or a trade school.” Another said they wanted to join the Navy; they liked the ocean. One said, “I want to go to a university in Turlock. You’ve heard about it?” My heart leaped! I told them that they all had the opportunity to make something great of themselves. That they need to have higher expectations than what society had of them, and higher than the ones they had set for themselves up to now. I shared with them that our church was planning for a youth center, and I wanted to see them there. They all accepted.

I left feeling a little better. Yet, I am not satisfied. My radial alertness needs to improve, and not focus so much on my own needs for God will provide for me if I go and provide freedom for His people in bondage. We need to do something now….going to those in need…spreading the good news of hope…using what we have….


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. tlc4women
    May 26, 2008 @ 09:27:32

    Unfortunately we see this much too often. Youth without purpose, dreams and desires and allowed to wander the streets without supervision.

    The question then is: What better life than their parents? In the poverty of their parent’s generation there was a dream. Now it is simply death.

    To reach these children we must reach a selfish generation of parents who simply do not care. They throw money at a situation to get the kids off of their back for a variety of reasons.

    They accept sin and live with it in their living rooms. What chance does the next generation have? As quickly as we plant ideas they are being ripped out by the root of the reality that there is simply no one at home who cares.

    Until we change the parents, the ones who God gave and entrusted the gift of a child to, they go home to the rhetoric of nonsense. The child then learns the art of manipulation.

    Of course the parents know full well how their daughters dress. But their goal is to teach their daughters that you don’t need an education when you have your sex. Sexy is their education. Don’t believe me? Then why in our city is the pregnancy rate going down in all other cultures but our own? Why do we think a fifth graders flirtatious ways and manners of dress is cute even in church?

    There is a lot of work to be done but on the big scale it will be on the adults. You know as well as I do that parents ground their kids from youth. They simply do not value what we are trying to do. Their jealousy over their power of influence supersedes the child’s best interest. It’s a a frustrating and disappointing place to be for me. I can count on very few fingers the parents in the church whose homes I would allow my children to go visit. That is deep sadness to my heart.


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