Talking to myself again

I got a text message today, from a friend. His name is Mitchell. He’s 8. It read like this

“hi help us plz hp is so gay wif out u help come bac”

Despite the damage I’ve sustained, from my most recent attempt to love another human with abandon, this message made me laugh, and feel needed. And it made me cry.

I’ve worked with kids, for a little over eighteen years, as a lot of different things, one of them is with a holiday program, which is what the ‘hp’ in the message is. I’d like to say that in all that time, I can congratulate myself on teaching them something, but to be honest, in terms of lessons learned, I’ve gained far more from being in their company, than they have from being in mine.

The truth is, while they struggle and strive to grow up, I’ve always spent a good deal of my energy attempting the opposite. Somewhere in between, on the middle ground, we get to hang out.

I’ve seen what grown ups do to each other, and quite frankly, I’d rather be a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about shirking responsibility, or endlessly playing with things bought with someone else’s money. To give you an example, a little girl I once had the honour of meeting, had been emotionally and physically abused by her mother for five of her eight years. She didn’t smile, and she didn’t speak more than one word at a time, but she still drew a picture of a garden, and gave it to me. And she still lent me her favourite red crayon so I could add a big nose to the dog I drew back at her. That kind of simple direct bravery makes a great deal of adult problems seem like so much self indulgent bullshit. It certainly gave me quite a kick in the bum.

Kids are people who survive drowning and still reach for my hand and step into the water, one terrified, trusting millimetre at a time. They offer to share their lunch when they’re so thin I could lose them in a pile of toothpicks. Or I get hugged and asked if my cold is better, when I can clearly still see the finger shaped bruises on the back of a neck.

Everyone has had crap in their lives. I don’t deny mine. Abuse and pain, blood and tears and loss, times when life only gave me balls so it could take a good lingering kick at them. My kids though, gave me the option of not letting the damage turn into baggage. Damage is scars and wounds. Baggage is that too, but sometimes it’s also excuses. Can’t trust. Can’t love. Can’t give. Too hard. Too scared.

Sorry, I think I’m talking mostly to myself here, and I had to write this down somewhere. I would never assume to judge another’s history, or to compare it with a list of estimated times of recovery. I just know that the strongest most giving people I’ve ever known, well, most of them hadn’t even reached double figures yet, agewise.
If I can take the lessons they’ve taught me and make sure that my sadness is never cause for me to paint each new person with a remembered pain, I think I’ll be closer to staying a kid, and the way I want to be.

I don’t work there anymore, or anywhere at the moment, except at my computer.I sit and I hurt and I’m frozen in my semi-retired state of mind. And I miss it.

Journal Comments

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