Today was the first day back with the House of Hope kids for a while. In the midst of adjusting to parenthood this last year, I have spent more time behind the scenes (i.e. fundraising, planning, meeting with the board) than just going to be with the kids. This year I am excited to start one-on-one tutoring with a few of our kids.
I forgot how infuriating it is.
I sat down with a 9-year-old boy who is new this year. When he told me his name I thought, "Oooh yeah, I've heard of you." And in less than 5 minutes, his actions confirmed the negative reputation I've been warned about by multiple people. He is rude, he is persistently disobedient, he is an instigator, and worst of all, he is apathetic.
Since I've been away for a while, it was easy for me to remember that although it's entirely frustrating to be around him, there's a reason he is like this. There's a reason he's so angry.
And as anyone that works with at-risk youth will tell you, the challenge lies in remembering that there is a reason instead of reacting to their behaviors.
I spend a few hours helping the kids with their homework and starting to talk to Susi (our director) about which kids I should tutor. I am excited about the opportunity to give one-on-one attention to kids that starve for it. I am excited about planning ways to motivate them and finding resources to bring them up to grade level. I am excited about building relationships deeper than just helping with homework.
Then on my drive home, as I turn the corner there is an old lady walking in the middle of the street without a crosswalk. She stops for me, I stop for her, and she takes her sweet time walking the rest of the way without even acknowledging my favor. I want to yell sarcastically at her out the window.
I pull up to the driveway and try to open the gate to pull the car in. Boss and Osita are going crazy because our neighbor adopted a street dog, lets him roam the streets pooping on everyone else's porch, and drives our dogs to bark incessantly. I want to kill that dog. Really though, if it comes near, maybe I can "accidentally" run over it with my car...
With Coen in my arms, I try sliding open our gate. It gets off track and won't move in either direction. I try lifting it with one arm, no go. I put Coen down. Boss attacks him with kisses until he falls over in the dirt. Why is there dirt everywhere? Will we ever not live in a freakin' dust bowl?! I drop the gate, pick Coen back up, and try to get Boss to sit and stay. He won't, and I am immediately furious at Tracey for not letting me give him up for adoption (Boss, the dog, not our son :) last year when we realized we were in over our heads.
The neighbor dog is still barking. Fine. I will pull the car in later tonight. Thank you, neighbor, for adopting a street dog so that it can live on our street. I go again to the gate to try and shut it. Maybe I'll just leave it open. I don't even care anymore. You guys can go poop all over the street, get some exercise, and who cares if you make it back. I lift the gate again and it hops to the other side of the track. Why is everything made in this country a piece of crap?! The gate finally shuts, I pick Coen up, brush him off, and go inside.
I am reeling.
And then I realize, there has to be a reason. I can't be this angry at an old woman, dogs, and minor house malfunctions. There is something deeper...
I am angry that this kid is only 9 and he already has his ticket punched. That even if I spend hours upon hours trying to help him, he may never accept it. That his parents don't love him the way they should and realistically may have never wanted him in the first place. That we keep pouring time and energy into our church building and people keep robbing and vandalizing it. And most of all, that this horrible cycle of poverty is the same one I worked with in Charlotte, and the same one that Jesus said would always be here.
Once again I am reminded of why inner-city teacher burnout takes only 3-5 years. It takes so much energy to pour everything you are into a job that more than likely doesn't produce the results we want to see, at least not on the larger scale. We are not going to eradicate poverty or save the world, but somehow we have to keep trying.
As Tracey reminded me after my emotional rant of frustration, we have to remember the individuals we are helping and not get overwhelmed by the entire system. We can't lose hope for one child's life because we know how the bigger picture works. And I'm pretty sure that hope is where Jesus has to come in, because it just doesn't make sense to have any without Him.
Lord, give us your hope.
And in the meantime, help me to recognize the source of my anger so that innocent street dogs may live!