David's Blues, Part 2


“Lolo” is one of my kids. He’s 11, kind of small for his age, but smart as hell. His mom enrolled him in this summer aviation program, and two weeks ago the kid flew a plane. When she first brought him in to my program, he had been getting into steady trouble and his grades were slipping. The problem was that his regular school wasn’t challenging him properly because it wasn’t engaging him the way he needed to be engaged. But he found his groove in my program, and I’ve watched him grow in just a few short months. Today I told Lolo that we were closing. He almost started to cry, but he’s too cool for that. After all, he can fly a plane.

The last two days have been spent telling my kids that the program was closing down. Lolo took it hard. So did “Weez” and “Dre.” They’ve all taken it hard, asking me, “Why are they doing this to us?”
“It ain’t you,” I tell them. “It’s just the bullshit of life, and you guys got caught in it.” I figure there’s no point in watching my language anymore. They’re learning a lesson in reality, no point in sugar-coating what’s going on.

And while I’m talking to each of the kids, one on one, I’m wondering about “Keese.” He’s a lanky fourteen year-old who I suspect is a genius. He excels at everything he does. Taught himself how to play the guitar in about three hours. Seriously. He comes in every day, like clockwork, and works on multiple projects from the moment I open the doors, until the time I close up. Five hours a day, five days a week. But he’s been missing for two days. I told him Friday that we might be closing down. You would have thought I’d punched him in the gut. “What will I do? Where will I go?”

“You’ll keep on keeping on, man,” I told him, not knowing what else to say.

Now, I suspect Keese has bailed on us, before we could bail on him.

There were days that I struggled to maintain a positive attitude, to not let the cynicism that has taken over my soul creep out and infect the kids I work with. Life had already started beating them down, and it wasn’t going to stop. The least I could do, was help teach them some defensive moves, so that not every punch knocked them down. You get knocked down enough times, you just don’t get up any more. These last two days I knocked my kids down really hard. And I still have three more days of this bullshit to go.

The thing that bothers me the most is that none of the kids I work with are stupid. They may do and say some stupid things from time to time—we all do—but they know the deal. And after the initial shock of finding out the program is closing is down, they all, every single one of them, has asked the same questions: Why would they hire you, let you buy all these new computers, this new software, and all this other stuff, and then close the whole program down before it really gets started?

The answer to those questions, and there’s no putting a positive spin on it, is simple: They don’t give a shit about you. And the sad part is that I don’t have to answer the question, because all of my kids know this already.

Three more days of knocking kids down. Three more days of telling Lolo, Keese, Weez and all the others that they don’t matter, because some numbers cruncher decided that helping them was not fiscally feasible. Translation: You ain’t worth it. And I’m the one who gets to tell them this.

If there is a God, I hope I will be forgiven for these terrible sins.


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