I've had some opportunities to spend time with L again lately in various settings. He was in church Sunday, and since I had no churchly roles to fill, he and I shared a pew and a prayer book. That was nice. He stayed for the lasagne and adult education seminar on contempletive prayer afterwards as well. It was interesting watching this young man who has had so little in his life that we would consider "normal" social interaction behave so appropriately and be so engaged. I'd given him some notebook paper and a pencil for "notetaking or doodling" I'd said in an aside. He did neither. He just sat and simply listened, making a comment now and then. As part of the workshop we sat in silent prayer for fifteen minutes, then at the end talked a bit about how that was for us. He said it went quickly for him and was "peaceful, not like how time went when I have been in dark places." After the workshop I took him to run some errands and we talked about some serious stuff, but also just laughed and enjoyed time together. He has a very quirky sense of humor, but it is also clear that he has seen way too much of life's darkness for his age. He is an odd mix...one moment all intensity about how he will ever get his life together in time to be a parent to his son, the next getting excited about matchbox cars. We both agree that this all beats hanging out in jail. Things are moving forward. He's job hunting, although without a lot of success. Given that his last job was summer of 06, he's got a record and not even a GED, he's not exactly anyone's target market for hiring around here. On the upside, he now has a social worker, a doctor, a therapist. He is making friends in at CH. He is starting to trust the staff there a little bit. One of the people at church has offered to take him out to coffee and has commissioned him to do a drawing. He 's started at Adult Ed for his GED. That I think could be a long haul. Near as we can tell, last time he was in "regular" school was some time back in elementary, and no one is sure how far back. In addition to all the other challenges we suspect that he may have some learning disabilities. We're working on seeing if we can get some objective testing done for that. The emphasis on "objective" rather than the kind that sets out to prove that he can not achieve as he's already been subjected to some of that as part of his involvement in "the system."
I have always know that the world did not operate the same way for those who have and those who don't. I work with many people who receive some type of public assistance, and I know that things are not equitable. I have always cared about this. But with L I feel the injustice of this all so acutely coming together in many systems in one life. Poverty, racism, the legal system and how that works (or doesn't) when you are poor. The impacts of intergenerational issues on learning and the ability to support oneself. L and I had a little inside joke in jail, that he was teaching me about "real jail" not "TV jail." I think it goes beyond that. I think he is teaching me some pretty important things about real life as well. I'm grateful to him and I'm scared for him. It's so much to overcome. I feel amazingly protective toward L. Some days I have to hand him back to God more times than I can count. But his village is growing and I hope and pray it is big enough to be the community he needs.