Thursday, February 01, 2007

JESSE
(This was one of my first posts when I started blogging. I decided to re-post it as this is something that has been in my thoughts lately. And it will lead into some upcoming posts about what I do for a living. So for some of you it will be a repeat....sorry! )

One of the first boys to break my heart was just that..... a little boy. I was eighteen and working as a summer intern for my church. One of our responsibilities that summer was to host week-long daycamps in some of the more rural and poor areas of our community. One particular week we were based out of a small, country church and I was to have the older elementary school kids in my group. The first morning, as my kids began to arrive, in walked a 10 year old boy named Jesse with a biker bandana wrapped around his head, tattoos on his arm(yes, real tattoos), and a wily look in his eyes. He strutted right up to me, looked me square in the eyes, and said, "HEY WOMAN!" He then proceeded to tell me that he didn't want to be there and he wasn't going to listen to anything I said.

Jesse stayed true to his word that day and also made sure he was the center of attention- shouting over all the other kids, grabbing things from people, and generally making a nuisance of himself. During recreation was the only time he listened, and that was only because the guys I worked with led it and he knew he couldn't participate unless he followed the rules. At the end of the day, while I was breathing a big sigh of relief, Jesse informed me that daycamp was boring and he wasn't coming back.

Tuesday morning dawned and I was quietly preparing activities for the day when I heard a loud voice coming from down the hall: "WHERE'S THAT WOMAN?" Jesse did come back. Not only that, but he was my only kid that day. Looking back, I know that this was God-ordained and I did my best to make a connection with Jesse and keep him engaged. I had brought in a CD of one of my favorite Christian bands to play while we made crafts, which at first Jesse balked at. That was until he heard that it was rap music. We turned the volume up and I did my best MC Hammer moves while Jesse rolled his eyes and then laughed hysterically. He then joined me and we danced around the room instead of making crafts. We talked about his tattoos, which he told me his dad gave him. We played basketball and I beat him in a game of HORSE. And by the end of the day he actually called me by my real name. He was a little more reluctant to go home that day.

As each day came, Jesse continued to show up and thoroughly enjoy himself. He basked in the attention and love. He became my shadow the rest of the week and wanted to help me with everything I did. Each day he became more and more reluctant to go home.... and as the week progressed I got little glimpses into why. The van driver's reports about Jesse's home were pretty dismal and Jesse talked of drinking and yelling. There were also some tell-tale signs of neglect.

The last day of our daycamp dawned and Jesse was extra clingy all day. We had a little farewell party in the afternoon and then the time came for the kids to board the van and go home. I knew it would be sad because we had grown attached to many of the kids, but nothing could have prepared me for Jesse's goodbye. Every kid had left to board the van except Jesse, who kept finding reasons to piddle. I had already told him goodbye and given him a big hug and kiss. When the last call came for the van, Jesse ran to me, started crying and clung to my leg with all his might. He asked me if he could come home with me, to which I replied that he couldn't but I would really miss him, too. At this point my heart began to hurt for him so much as I realized this tough little man was really just a hurt and needy little boy.
I couldn't pry Jesse off my leg and he continued to cry. Eventually he had to be pulled away by one of the guys, who then ushered him to the van. I wept the whole drive home that day.

Jesse was just one of many children living in similar circumstances that we encountered that summer. We had been warned, but nothing really prepares you for it. As progressive a community we lived in, our county had one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state.

I left for college at the end of that summer and I don't know what happened to Jesse. I have no grand illusions that his week with us was any major catalyst in his life. But I still think about him, cry over him, and pray for him. I pray that the seed of Love and hope that was planted in his heart that week was watered by other people in his life and would grow to fruition. And I pray for kids all over the world who are just like Jesse. You see, I believe a seed was not only planted in Jesse's heart that week, but also in mine. Gradually, over the years, the seed has been watered by other kids and other circumstances- many of which I will tell about in the future. Meeting Jesse that week put a burden on my heart that was so great it led to a passion, and eventually, a career working with troubled and at-risk children.

I write this only because you need to know about Jesse. He lives in your community, too. We live in a fallen world and child neglect and abuse will probably be a constant in our world. But can you imagine the impact it would have if every adult, every family, and every church got consistently involved in the life of a troubled or at-risk child in their community? I have no doubt the impact would be great. Even one hurt soul that was healed could change the destiny of many. Just imagine!

11 comments:

Tom Atkins said...

How very touching. And how very true. Most of us don't understand our potential for changing the world, just by touching a single life.

Tom

bluemountainmama said...

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Tom.

Anil P said...

I've begun to wonder what's up with Jesse now. Lovely post. Unlikely encounters freeze memories, and we live our lives trying to thaw them.

bluemountainmama said...

anil- wow, a visitor from india! the web is amazing, huh? i'll be checking out your blog soon!

Anna said...

I loved it then and still do! Thanks for the repost! And I am so glad that you coudl see Jeremy again. I know that it is hard to be away from your sister and family.

I feel for you....

kaliblue said...

I unfortunatley was a victim of child abuse by my father. After he passed away I had trouble dealing with things. I attempted suicide twice. Thank God 2 close friends were put in my path and saved me. God I think puts people in the paths of those who needs someone when it feels like there is no one. Touching story. Thanks for sharing:-).

bluemountainmama said...

kaliblue- thanks for sharing your story...i believe abuse is much more rampant than people realize, and the scars remain for a lifetime. i am glad God brought people into your life to help you. i have many friends who have endured the trauma of abuse as well and are still working through it.....

Anna said...

Hope all is well and goes OK tomorrow for you! :) Sorry to tempt you like that!

Elise said...

What a beautiful post - I could see Jesse in my minds eye.
Because, as you said, he lives in my community, too.
Thank you, friend. Looking forward to the future posts you mentioned!

L.L. Barkat said...

I like how you stuck with him, and entered his world. When we meet hostility, it's sometimes just easier to walk away, to give up and close up.

kirsten said...

That is an amazing story. It is easy to feel overcome by issues as vast as child abuse & neglect, but I think you've shown here that Jesse's world was changed because you took the time to love him in spite of the tough shell he presented at first. The world can be changed, one child at a time. Thanks for sharing!