Friday I was headed back to my car after dropping off some papers for work. I walked past this older lady and told her good morning. She said good morning too and then stopped me. She came close to me and said “Go ask that young man over there why he’s not in school today. You’re a man go ask him.” Sitting a few feet away was a young kid about 11 years old minding his own business. He didn’t look too tough these days you never know what’s going on in the minds of these kids. It’s different when you are in a controlled environment like a school function or a mentoring event. Those kids expect interaction with the adults around. You can get into their business without much fear of confrontation. This lady was asking me to go up to this young man and ask him why he’s not in school like I know him already. There was a possibility that when I asked him he would respond “you ain’t my daddy!” Then I would have had to respond to that because I can’t have some kid talking to me any kind of way and now I’m caught up in a conflict around some kid’s truancy and bad manners all because I wasn’t raised to ignore what the old lady told me. It would have been even worse if his mama was close enough to hear and got offended by me asking him. It always seems to be that the parents with the kids causing trouble always seem to be the most upset when someone tells them anything.
There used to be a time where old people had so much unquestioned authority that she could have asked him why he wasn’t at school and why I wasn’t at work and we both would have had to answer out of respect. That would still work on me every time because I stick to the traditional family hierarchy but you can’t be too sure about the kids. She was right that I am a man and this is my community so I should be worried about why he wasn’t in school. It was my job to ask him so I went on over there. It turns out he is on fall break. Charter schools take days off that we are not used to. She waited by the elevator until I gave her an answer and once she was satisfied she went upstairs. The kid just set there on the bench looking confused. I went to my truck being thankful that it didn’t lead to any confusion. I guess we have to be willing to risk the confusion to keep these kids in check.