A Boy’s Will is the Wind’s Will

Alone With a New Grandson

Little Ben and I are having a staring contest. He will win. Nobody in the world can outlast the stare of a two-month old baby. I wonder, for the upteenth time, what is going on in his head. Is he thinking anything at all?

The lines of a poem by Henry Wadsworth poem pop serendipitously into my head.

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

Most of us adults assume that the thoughts of a tiny baby are pretty well fixed on survival stuff .
“Will someone please feed me or change my diaper or pick me up?” But maybe we are the ones who are short sighted.

In many ways we are all mysteries to one another. Could it be that this little tot is already sizing us up?

“Hmm! This face sure looks different from Mom. His voice is deeper too. What the hey, he’s making funny faces at me. Now that’s a kick.”

“He’s holding me kind of awkward. Looks like he hasn’t held a baby for a while. But he does smile a lot. He seems to enjoy being with me.”

“I wonder a lot about stuff. Like, how come someone pulled me out of that sweet warm place where I used to be? Well, it was getting a bit cramped in there and I have to admit that I was getting restless.”

Now that I find myself in this new world, I’ve got to figure out where do I go from here. What did that old guy say?” “A boy’s will is the wind’s will and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.?” I gotta think about that one. Not sure what it means but then again I’m not a youth yet.

I’m in no big hurry to grow up. There’s lots of friendly people around me, welcoming me into the world, loving me, taking care of me. I guess I can wait a while before I start thinking those long, long thoughts.

A Kid With Integrity

A Kid With Integrity

True Story. I’m taking this tall Afro-American teenager out with me to help him look for a job. A friend had helped him with his resume and it looked pretty good except there was little to show for his work experience.

“Alonzo, that one paragraph, that’s all you have?” “Yea, it is what it is,” he replied. “Nothing else?” I inquired. Then Alonzo said, “My mom wanted me to put down that I had worked for her in her cleaning business. That would have made it sound a little better but”….he hesitated. “So why didn’t you?” “Because it wasn’t true.” “In other words, it would have been a lie?” “Yep,”he answered.

We rode in silence for a while. Then, Alonzo glanced at me. “Did I do the right thing?” “Alonzo, what do you think?” “Yes, I feel that I did.” he reflected. “Maybe nobody else would have found out I lied but I would have known.”

Wow! Was I hearing things? Here is a kid who respected his word, a word, I might add, that did not from the mouth of an altar boy from an intact family but from a kid who had been around the block a few times. Alonzo is the progeny of a run away dad and an abusive mom. He was raised in a series of group homes and foster homes. He never even knew who his bio mom was until he was nearly fifteen years of age, only to find out that she is an addict and a drug dealer.

So how do you explain the honesty, the integrity of a kid like Alonzo? We think we know people but we don’t. Somewhere, deep within the soul of this youth was a sense of character that I could not begin to explain. He didn’t cheat, not because he was afraid to be caught but because he would not be true to himself. This young kid discovered something about life that manages to elude so many in our culture. When we lie, when we pretend to be someone we are not, we diminish ourselves.

I felt humbled to be in the presence of a young man like Alonzo. I thought to myself how many privileged kids would have hesitated to tell a little lie to get ahead? When you get down to it, we are all getting pretty dam blasé about telling the truth aren’t we? We may not admit we lie. We say we MISSPOKE, as though that’s any different.

Our heroes betray us, whether John Edwards or Tiger Woods or hundreds like them, but a black teenage kid from a dysfunctional family stood head and shoulders above them all. “If I had lied no one else might have known but I would have known.” Words like these are not the words of a boy but a man, a real man.

The Hunger games, a parable for our times

Hunger Games is a parable for our times

In the “Hunger Games” children are selected to kill other children in a gruesome real-life survivor games spectacle. The annual televised “entertainment” is intended to keep the citizens from any thoughts of protesting their impoverished existence under a despotic government.

It is not by chance that the evil empire should choose youth 18-24 years old as the sacrificial victims of their games. Young people are the energy that drives a nation. They are our hope, our passion, our future. Kill off the youth and you have killed any chance to bring about change in society.

Is it farfetched to see a hidden, albeit softened version of the “Hunger Games” being played out in our midst? Isn’t there an eerie similarity in the way we send hundreds of thousands of our youth to places like Iraq and Afghanistan to be killed or disabled for life?

Isn’t it awkward, at the very least, that, in California, we spend more money to build prisons to warehouse young offenders, (most of whom are being imprisoned for victimless crimes,) than we do to build more colleges and universities?

Given our massive drug problem in this country, why can we never seem to find enough money to fund drug rehabilitation services for our youth and follow-up programs for those leaving prison? Maybe we are not directly killing off our youth but we sure are wasting any potential they may have to turn their lives around. Aren’t we?

Did you notice that we hardly ever speak of “broken families” anymore? We don’t want to face the fact that our easy road to divorce is deeply affecting the lives of our children. Couples split, rationalizing that they don’t love one another anymore. Nobody is hurt, right? Nobody but the kids they left behind.

Too often children from dysfunctional families find themselves being sent to a foster care system on overwhelm. Siblings are separated from one another; kids are bounced from one foster placement to another. Woefully underpaid child-care staff are left without adequate resources to care for the victims of abuse and neglect. With as many as 70% of prison inmates having spent time in foster care, is it any wonder that the system is often referred to as a “pipeline” to prison.

If the national character is judged by the way it treats its children, we aren’t doing very well. Our youth need us to raise a little hell on their behalf. They deserve better health care (40 million uninsured children is not acceptable.) They have a right to the opportunity for a good education; for the chance to grow up in an intact family and to be valued as the future of our country.

Unlike the Hunger Games, we have not planned this giant conspiracy to diss our children. Most of us love our children and are willing to sacrifice for them. But folks, we have to do better.

“We’re All Just Walking Each Other Home”

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Ram Dass

In the early days of the Children’s Village. many of the kids used to attend a public school in our neighborhood. From time to time, I would take my dog, Sammy, and walk to school to meet them. Then, Sammy and I would walk the kids home. I found that our kids would really prefer walking to getting a ride home in the village van.

I enjoyed it, too. Walking along with the kids, I would be the first to hear their stories.
“Mrs. Holiday is so cool. She told us about the time she almost ran over a cat.”
“Grandpa Hank, I got an ‘A’ on my spelling test.”
“Sean’s my best friend.”
“Mr. Norton made us do push-ups”

There was something comfortable about just walking along with the kids. It felt so normal somehow, like this is the way it’s supposed to be. You could picture it on an old Normal Rockwell painting, the old grandpa and his dog walking the kids home from school.

Well, times change. Most of the village kids have moved on to junior high or high school and have to be driven to school now. But the memory of our walks to school remains in the nostalgia file of my brain.

Coming across the quote from Ram Dass yesterday (“We’re all just walking each other home”) made me think beyond the context of school kids, to our larger life as human beings on our life journeys.

Caught up in our own little worlds, it is easy to forget that all of us are, in a sense, walking each other home. Born into the same world, breathing the same air and belonging to the same human species, “We are,” says Maya Angelou, “more alike than un-alike.”

My child-like fantasy is a larger-than-life Norman Rockwell painting depicting the human race walking hand-in-hand, going home at the end of our journey. We are kids again, holding hands, just walking one another home. We have so much in common, you and I. There’s lots to talk about and share and it’s such a beautiful day.

What’s that you say? “Sure, Hank, and life is like a big, fluffy cone of cotton candy.” Yea, maybe you’re right. But the dream remains and the reality is that we really ARE, all of us, on a journey home. The trouble is we are fighting with each other on the way, spoiling what could be a lovely walk.