Ian, at the Daily Dose of Reality, has been hosting something called the Monday Minute for approximately the last year. The Monday Minute, for those of you who don't know, is a set of five questions each Monday and then people link up and answer. Ian, however, is looking for a new host of the Monday Minute and has given those that would consider taking it over the task of writing the following.
"By signing the linky, I want you to write a story. A story that has happened to yourself at one point in your life. A story that will inspire others to do good. A story where you performed either a random act of kindness or went out of your way to help someone in need."
As a I read this request, I immediately saw the face of S.S. (disclaimer: these aren't actually her initials for confidentiality purposes). When I was a junior in college, I volunteered at a local attorney's office four days a week. Mr. G. did exclusively juvenile defense work. In other words, our clients had gotten in trouble with the law and he defended them. When I started at the law office, I had such a judgmental point of view. I thought "what a lazy bunch of kids." I thought "these children are what's wrong with today's society." And then, I met S.S.
A couple times a week, Mr. G. would send me to the jail to go talk with the kids. Usually, he just wanted me to go shoot the breeze with them and get to know them. He thought this experience would be invaluable to me...he was SO right.
I still remember so vividly the first time I went to the jail. I sat behind a glass window and a 16 year old girl came up and immediately started making inappropriate gestures at me and sat back in her chair not wanting to give me the time of day. The first visit was a complete disaster. I shyly let her take advantage of my time and came back feeling defeated and weak. The next visit, I decided I had had enough. SHE was the one behind the glass. SHE was the one that had broken the law on VARIOUS occasions. Every single time, she was arrested for running away. Her Mom claimed her daughter was just being a typical teenager and there was no way to control her.
I sat down and told her, "first of all, we're going to do things a little differently today. You're going to sit up, you won't slouch down, you're going to speak to me when I ask you questions, and you're going to respect what I say because I'm only here to help you!" S.S. didn't care for my new attitude ONE BIT. She told me to "f*ck off" multiple times. I kept insisting. We had multiple visits and slowly but surely she started to sit up and talk to me.
After the first 3 visits, Mr. G. told me I didn't have to go back anymore to talk with her. Now though, this was my mission...I was going to get to this girl. I was going to break through her rough outer shell and see what was making her ruin her own life. I started going to the jail on my lunch break or during the day and would as a result have to stay later at the office because I hadn't gotten my work done. This wasn't about her legal battles anymore. This was about her life and I wanted to do what I could to help.
After quite a few more visits, S.S. finally opened up. "You want to know why I run away? (the tears started flowing down her face) S.S. had been raped. Multiple times. By her father. By her uncle. By just about everybody that her mother LET. Her mother WANTED her to get pregnant to get food stamps and governmental aid. Her mother kept threatening to BEAT HER when she wasn't getting pregnant.
I held back my tears as best I could. I tried my best to stay strong for her. I asked her why she hadn't told the counselors at the jail about this and she responded "nobody cared enough to keep trying."
I RAN back to Mr. G.'s office and told him about S.S.'s story. I'm happy to report that S.S. was taken out of her Mother's custody. After that, I never heard back from S.S. which was a good thing because she used to be one of our regulars. I worked for Mr. G. for another year after that day and she never came back to jail. Not hearing from her was a good thing.
The interesting thing about this story is that it's supposed to be about how I influenced somebody, but I think she influenced me more than I did her. I now realize there are ALWAYS two sides to a story. I learned to have sympathy for children in the juvenile system because you NEVER KNOW what's goign on at home. I would have tried running away over and over again if I was her too...wouldn't you?
Whether I get the Monday Minute or not, I'm glad I wrote this post. Hopefully, this will influence others to keep an open mind and to remember that the children are our future. Who is trying enough to help them out?
16 hours ago