“I Think I Was Born For No Purpose.” (Brandon*, age 10)
Last week at Peace of the City. . . From my desk in our Community Room, I nod to Megan (POTC program director), “What’s up with Brandon*?” She whispers “Tieza (Homework Club director) found him standing in the hall for twenty minutes. He won’t talk and he won’t go into Homework Club, but he will come in here (POTC’s Community Room).” Megan sits down with him. Although Brandon has hardly spoken during the two years he’s been coming to POTC, we know something is up. I click away on the computer, watching them from my desk. Megan speaks in a low, loving voice and soon presents Brandon with paper, pen and a warm, reassuring smile.
Ten minutes pass and then I head across the room to check in with Brandon. Our Community Room really is a family room. Candles are lit, calming music plays, and white Christmas lights drape this room all year. The lights are particularly lovely and inviting after daylight savings begins, the snow falls and Advent hovers near. The Spirit in this room is a healing atmosphere, exactly as it should be for a wounded child to open up.
I place my hand on Brandon’s bony shoulder, sit down next to him and amid the whirl of the loving and focused activity that only a “family room” can generate, in a hushed voice I ask Brandon if I could read what he wrote. He looks me square in the eye and consents with the slightest nod of his head. Brandon is not easy to look at. His teeth are so mangled and protruding that he barely talks and has to stick his lips out far to cover his teeth up. His reading and writing skills so lacking that he is in our literacy program. Still, I see in his eyes–perhaps for the first time–that Brandon is an “old soul” and brace for what I will read.
With surprisingly good penmanship Brandon pours out his ten-year- old soul. . .
“I feel sad everyday. When I wake up I do not want to go to school. I feel that sometimes nobody loves me. I hate my life. I look in the mirror and say, Brandon, you do not deserve to live. I feel that I am dumb. I want to kill myself. I think I will never be able to go to college. I think I will never get a job. I think I will never be able to take care of my family when I grow up. I think I was born for no purpose.”
I am eager to dig in and set the record straight, telling him the “truth” as I see it. But I pause, sensing that this approach might overwhelm him with my intensity and eagerness to reach him in this manner. Instead I ask him to tell me about what this all means. So, with jewelry being made nearby, snacks prepared, homework completed and tea steeping in this “Community Room”, Brandon and I share thoughts and feelings about when life is rough– when fathers abandon sons, when there isn’t enough money, when school is tough and when your heart is so full of hardships that you think you’re alone. Brandon’s demeanor subtly shifts and he now seems ready to tackle his homework.
Before we part, this bubbles out of me and into Brandon: “There’s one more thing. Brandon, I have three amazing daughters, but no sons. If I did have a son, I’d want him to be just like you.” His eyes smile first–just a little bit. Then his mouth gives way to not only a smile, but an instinctive knowing that Hope is his for the taking. I kiss Brandon on the forehead and ask one of our high school interns to help Brandon complete his homework. He does. Not long afterward I turn from packing my bags for the day and literally bump into a hug from Brandon. He came back and had been waiting there for me to notice him. I keep the hug brief so as to not overwhelm him but he doesn’t let go. His bony arms feel surprisingly strong for a ten-year-old boy, someone strengthened for the task of finding a way through his harsh life. “We’ll be here tomorrow, Brandon.” “I know,” he responds solidly.
“I Want My Son to Feel What I Did at Homework Club.”
This same week, Tieza (Homework Club director) received a phone call from Kenny who grew up attending Homework Club with his two brothers and sister and Tieza and her sisters. Kenny has a five-year-old son that he wants to enroll in POTC because “I want my son to feel the way I did in Homework Club.” It can feel a bit unbelievable that when all is said and done, Kenny (now 27) in making his first real contact to POTC in ten years, remembers a “feeling” so strong that he wants to make sure his son “feels it too.”
LOVE–God’s love–runs reckless, wild and full every day at Peace of the City. Kenny remembers more than a feeling. Kenny remembers God.
You, the friends of Peace of the City, made and make AND WILL CONTINUE to make this possible. Please, seriously consider a great and generous gift—all the margin you have–so that Kenny and his son and Brandon and all the other children of Peace can know “the feeling of God”.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Diann Takens-Cerbone, Executive Director
* Not his real name