Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Old Lady And The Kid On The Bench

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.


Anita said...

Not sure I would challenge an eleven year old, although I did it once--I saw a kid hit up a very old lady for ice-cream money outside the Baskin-Robbins and I told him he ought to be ashamed of asking that old woman for her streetcar money and besides, he ought not to be hanging out on the corner begging for money; he ought to be at home doing his homework so he could grow up and amount to something. He ran away but later (I was on my bike) met me a few blocks further on and came up to me (I was sure at that point that he was one of those kids who was going to pull a gun now and blow me away) but all he did was say that he was sorry and that he really had finished all of his homework before he went out to the store and he only asked that one woman for money.

I'm really glad those kids didn't shoot either one of us and that we both remember when the whole neighborhood, even the whole city was a controlled environment at least as far as school kids were concerned. Adults all had authority back in the day. Sometimes we almost accidentally just go ahead and act like adults, don't you think?

LSL said...

This is a great reminder to keep taking care of each other. I've been reading for a while, and I appreciate every lesson and every post.