December 29, 2007

It just about broke my heart to listen to him, and I silently prayed for the ability to tell him, in words he could digest, the truth I so desperately longed for him to grasp.
This was the week when I finished up the monthly newsletter, and so I decided on a themed page of sample New Year’s resolutions. To do so, I conducted an informal survey of the residents, and then compiled a list of anonymous quotes. Though he is not a typical resident, this young man lives with his grandfather, and so seeing him around while off from school, I asked if he had a New Year’s Resolution he’s like to share. Initially confused at the question, I explained what I meant. After thinking a moment about what his “resolution” might be, he responded that yes, he did have one, actually. I could see him carefully composing his thoughts, and then he told me he resolved, “to work better, and harder–for my life to be worth something.”
This is when I tried desperately to affirm his thoughtful resolution–wise beyond his 12 years–while telling him that he should never feel that he had to work harder in order for his life to be worth something; I explained that he was perfectly, wonderfully important as he is, and that working hard is a good thing, but is not necessary to make his precious life any more valuable than it already is . . .
Today, as I distributed the completed newsletters, he and his grandfather came back from an afternoon outing. Seeing me, he asked if it was what he thought it was, and I smiled as I told him that it was indeed–“hot off the press.” He asked if he could have one and, after teasing him a moment about whether or not he was allowed to see it, I gave one to both he and his grandfather. Then I happily observed his proud explanation of how he had contributed a “quote” for the newsletter, which he showed to his grandpa. Seeing that he was willing to share his own words, I then asked him if he also remembered what I had told him yesterday. And I was deeply moved at his eager reply, as he gave an accurate account of my admonition. My only prayer is that it can find a resting place deep in his psyche, coming back to the forefront of his memory as the journey to adulthood assaults him with trials that wage war against his sense of self, and of significance.

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