Brian came home yesterday with a proof of one of the banners that will go up on the stage at REZonate. We'll have 3 banners with pictures of different kids on them. He brought home the proof and I was taken aback by the sheer size of it. It will look small on the stage because the stage is a monster, but in my kitchen, it was HUGE. He said, "I'm not sure which kids this is". I said it's Billy*.
Billy was about 3 years old in the picture. He's probably about 7 or 8 now. His mommy was an alcoholic who abused him. When she was about to be arrested, she took Billy and fled. As best as I can tell, no one knows what ever happened to him. Or at least if they do, they're not talking. The picture marks the last time I saw him. I've wanted to ask around ... see if anyone knows where he is ... see if anyone knows if he's OK, and then I remind myself that he will never be OK. Not totally. He was the only 3 year old I've ever known who wore a constant expression of fear on his face. That is how I remember him. Afraid. I only saw him smile once. I was coming around by one of the buildings and saw him stomping in a puddle of water left by a hose that had been left running. He saw me and terror instantly filled his face. He'd been caught and now he was going to get it. I stopped in my tracks and said, "Its ok baby, its just water. That looks like fun" and then began stomping in the water with him. He grinned and laughed, not quite sure what to make of an adult stomping in water.
Billy is one of so many. I also remember the words of an eight year old who told his teacher, "No one loves me. No one. And there is no safe place in this world". Eight is an awful young age to come to that conclusion. This year that little guy didn't want to go to his class. He said he didn't feel good. I knew he was fine and was just not wanting to go to class so I said, "well then, I guess you'll just have to sit on my lap", thinking there was no way in the world an 8 year old boy would want to sit on his teacher's lap. But he did. He ate it up in fact.
And there's the little boy who lives in a rat trap trailer with broken windows. He lives there with his mom and 6 brothers and sisters. He doesn't get as much to eat as he would like and wears the same clothes all week. He begged to come home with me this year. It was all I could do not to bring him.
To me these are not just kids on a Reservation. They're my kids. They're kids I know and play with and love. They are a big part of the reason I do the insane things I do. I can't fix it for them. There's so much I can't do, but I can do what I can do to make it a little bit better. And I assume that's what I'll keep on doing.
*Not his real name