Photo taken by Matthew Smith
I just had a feeling that something incredible was going to happen. Sometimes in life we simply have to trust our instincts. More importantly, we must trust in the human spirit. So I did. And I got lucky!
He finished out last year at an alternative school due to some poor behavior choices he had made. A good kid who was heading down the wrong path. He found some success while there, but still had yet to reach his full potential. Nevertheless, the decision was made that he would return to his home school to start the new year.
To be honest, I was worried. But I was hopeful. Lucky for him he gets to spend his days with people who believe in him and consequently, have gotten him to believe in himself. And he is soaring! His grades have improved dramatically and his behavior has too. Just recently another young man tried to bait him into a fight. The old him would have jumped at the chance. Confidentally he walked away.
Fast forward one month. I am walking past a second grade classroom and I notice two boys in a little scuffle. Nothing major, but enough to where I must intervene. I took both boys by the hand and walked them to my office. I knew exactly how to mediate the situation such that the boys could move forward. Yet, at that moment I decided to try something different.
I left the boys in the room for just a moment while I went to get someone. Someone who I believed could help me with this situation. Someone who I believed might be able to do a better job than I could. Someone who I believed was ready to take another step forward towards his reaching his full potential.
The person I went and got was none other than the fourth grade boy I have been describing. Like I said in the beginning, I just had a feeling that magic was about to happen. I told him that I needed him to meet with two boys that had just been in a fight. I told him I trusted him. And then I closed the door and left.
But before I left. Unbeknownst to either of the boys, I turned the voice memo recorder on my phone on. Like I said, I just knew something incredible was about to happen.
I returned about ten minutes later and it appeared as if everything went well. I thanked him and went about the rest of my day. By the time I had the opportunity to listen to the recording, my phone was dead. I charged my phone as soon as I got home because I could not wait to hear what was said while I was out of the room.
And then I listened. I was in awe of what I was hearing.
He began by allowing each boy to share their side of the story. Perfect. Then they both became a little animated. But he wasn’t haven’t it. “Chill, chill,” he said. He then proceeded to stress the importance of not having their hands on each other to begin with. It wasn’t just about saying sorry. So far so good.
Next, he asked them both if they wanted to end up at alternative school. He shared with them what it was like and how it was not a fun place to be. Who better to warn these boys about what could happen than someone who has lived it firsthand?
At this point he told them to shake hands. “And you gotta be for real with it!” He made them say I’m sorry, look each other in eye and use their right hands. Once he was satisfied with their hand shakes he asked each boy about their family. You see, many of our kids are connected in one way or another. And in no uncertain terms he told them that he didn’t want to have to tell their family.
He then told them that they had to stop being enemies. Then he brought religion into the discussion. Religion has obviously helped turn his life around and it was apparent that he had been paying attention to the sermons. He asked them if they liked God. They both said yes. One boy said he went to church. The other boy admitted he did not. That was okay the fourth grader replied.
He loves everybody. But you gotta show him you love him. By not doing violence. By not being bad. by not cussing. No middle fingers. Nothing.
It was then that I came back in the room. He had them shake hands again so I could witness their reconciliation. And then he made a point that I myself could not make. I couldn’t make it because I am an adult. I couldn’t make it because I have lived a very safe and privileged life. But he could. Because he too is a kid. And he has not lived a very safe and privileged life.
I get it. Because some people, when you don’t fight back at home and in school they call you a punk and all that. That’s not true. If you believe that, then that’s on you letting them control you. Don’t let them control you. Be your own person, but not the bad person. Be a good person.
I couldn’t have been more proud of this young man, who only six months ago was struggling in alternative school. He showed poise. He showed character. But more than anything, he showed me he is becoming a young man. This gives me so much hope when I look to the future. I only hope that in the next six months I can grow half as much as this young man just did.
The most beautiful moment I have saved for the end. In the very beginning of the conversation. When the boys were each sharing their side of the story. My new hero showed me something. He saw that one boy’s nose was running. He stopped. Got a paper towel. And told him to wipe.
It’s subtle acts of kindness like this that in my opinion are the most beautiful ones of all.
We must never give up hope.
Because amazing things can happen.
If we just believe they are possible.
And they are.
And they are.