A Story of a Boy – Akin

Introduction by Dawn. Written by Guest Blogger, Kristie Jones

A conscious decision I made when I started blogging was to exclude the vast majority of my work life on the blog. One reason is because the blogs are a nice reprieve from work. Another reason is because I never want to come across as breaching confidentially by inadvertently mentioning something on here. If you do not know me you may now be wondering what the heck I do. Well, I am a public defender, specializing in juvenile law. I represent kids (and some adults) who have committed some sort of crime, from the minute to the most heinous, as a juvenile. Some of these clients have touched my heart to the point of hurting and even breaking. I have watched some go on to achieve very good things but more who were not so lucky. They are the ones who break my heart, when I know they are capable of so much, and will forever be on my mind.

I was thrilled when Kristie agreed to do a guest blog for us. I love her personal blogs and always look forward to reading them. She had pretty free reign to whichever topic she felt inspired to write. She was nervous when she sent me this post, thinking maybe it was not what I wanted. But when I read it, well, my mind raced. I loved everything about this post and could have written it myself. There are so many children like Akin (name changed to protect him) out there. Thankfully there are wonderful people like Kristie who have touched their hearts, in even a small way.

Thank you, Kristie, for sharing this with us. I know you brought tears to my eyes with your compassion and your writing. I will now be thinking and praying for Akin.

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I graduated from college in with a degree in Special Education with the intent and the certifications to work with children who had severe emotional and behavioral issues.  And so I began, at 22, getting my feet wet teaching middle school self-contained classes.  I moved around to several different places over the next six years, from after school programs to severe clinical facilities, to public school settings-  immersing myself in the field and doing all that I could to make a difference.  It was all eye opening, but I absolutely loved my job.  I was out each day to save the world,-  metaphorically throwing these little starfish back into the water, – one at a time… with more babies than I had time to save, but passionately using every moment and always giving it everything I had.

I was 24 and in my third year of teaching when I met Akin.  He was living at a local Children’s Home, along with his siblings.  He was a beautiful child, with soft brown skin and a wonderful sense of humor.  I gravitated towards this boy and, for whatever reason, connected with him a bit differently than the other students.  He was angry, yet somehow positive.  He would have extreme rage but would always enter laughing and smiling.   He melted my heart with this beautiful smile.

Akin was 11 years old when I met him and I taught him for two years.  I adored this child and even briefly considered with my husband making the choice to not have biological children and instead going through the process of bringing a different child, specifically Akin home.  I was young and my intentions were heartfelt.  I wanted to save this baby.  My husband, too, knew and enjoyed Kin and was listening when I spoke, and though our plans were ideal, they were hardly realistic and we never made it past lofty conversations.   How was it really possible?  We were a newly married Caucasian couple in our early twenties~ not much more than kids ourselves… and he was an 11 year old African American boy with severe behavioral and emotional issues living at a Children’s Home.  In the end, it was not only unrealistic but also far more than we could sustain at the time.  Where would we even begin??

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I don’t know what it was about Kin that got to me so much.  While I sincerely love each of the children whose paths I have crossed, and still keep in touch with many, Akin has always been the number one who stole my heart.  He was always clean and very conscious of this.   Somehow, he had learned to take care of himself, whereas other children, not at any of their own fault had very poor hygiene.  Kin enjoyed spending time with my husband and I and our dog as we did him.   He was always asking me about the neighboring state where I grew up, but with wild interest, like it was a foreign land.  In hindsight, perhaps it was to a child who’d spent his entire life moving from children’s home to foster home and back, time after time, – and though the totality of the relocations all consumed the same 80 miles of country highway, each move was met with the quiet hope and optimism that some small sense of stability could follow.

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At one point, the local television station featured Kin on a “Waiting Child Watch”, which was kind of like the classifieds, but on television.  Two or three kids like Akin would get dressed up really nice, talk about all their strengths and essentially ‘sell their story’, with the hopes that someone would watch and want to take them home.  It was like a televised animal shelter, really, and with the most sincere and fabulous of intentions, but just also highlighting a terribly sad reality.  When approached for the segment, Akin excitedly agreed and he was so brave. He went down to a local park where they filmed him romping around on the equipment and laughing.  Then he gave his quote, the kicker and his selling point to get a family.  He looked right in the camera, – just like he was supposed to do and smiled big, telling them, “I love to do my homework and I love ranch dressing!”

And then he again waited and prayed… for anyone to agree to be his own.

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Kin got upset very easy and had an intense temper, but it was usually just out of fear.  I arranged it so that I could pick him up from the Children’s Home and take him out around town sometimes.  It was a Friday night in the spring and I drove onto the campus to pick him up.   He was dressed so nice and excitedly waiting outside the door for me.   We got into my car and I took him to a Hibachi grill in town where we were meeting my husband for dinner.   Though I’d spend my own money and time, I desperately wanted these kids to have greater exposure and to know that there really was so much more out there if they could just try to hang on for just a little bit longer.

We walked into the lobby of the restaurant and Kin looked around.  He saw this place, with different decor than he was used to.  He heard the singing and drums of someone’s birthday behind the Asian curtains.  And then he panicked.  Kin ran out of the lobby and then out of the front door, as fast as he could.   Despite my best efforts, hugs and assurance, it was absolutely that foreign to him and he was sincerely afraid.  I hugged him tight and then without any worries, we took him somewhere else. He was thirteen years old then.  And petrified of a Hibachi grill.

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Kin, even when he was with me, never got a quality education.  God knows I tried, but the books we had weren’t full sets and they were all leftovers from better schools.  Academically, I’d be amazed if he reads or writes past the 5th grade level to this day, to no fault of his own and never a trade was taught.   Even beyond this, he needed love more than resources.  He had no parents, or involved extended family — no one steady in his life, ever.   If you can stop to imagine for a moment, this child was never once tucked into bed at night.   No one ever gently sang him a lullaby and rubbed his soft head until he fell asleep.   He never came home from school to a hug, a snack and playtime, as my children do as routine.   When nightmares, childhood fevers and the stomach flu crossed his path, there was no one to ever hold him in a warm bed and assure him things would soon be better.  This baby, and then this child never knew solid, familiar, comforting arms, to wrap his little boy fears into and this was the basis upon which he grew up.
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It’s been nearly 7 years since I have seen my boy and it was about a year ago now that I was in bed late one night with the flu.  I sat wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea and handful of lozenges, flipping through television channels.  I came upon a show titled “Gangland” on the History Channel.   It was a dramatic documentary filled with brutal criminals, reenactments of shootings, threatening visions of gang signs and the details of horrific crimes.  I was heartbroken to find that this particular show also featured, my sweet, soft brown skinned boy with the beautiful smile, — my Akin.

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We need to change the way we treat the children of our country.  We need to improve education and to give them all a fighting chance.   We are raising humans without humanity and then judging the end result and this must not be okay.  We have an obligation to take care of these children.

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For Akin, I know, it’s too late.  I will soon write a letter to my boy, who is no longer a boy, but now a grown man and a presumed killer.   He’s in prison on the other side of the state.  I won’t put my return address though and won’t expect a response.  I know he will soon die, –  it’s inevitable.   But I need this child to know that he was loved.   That he is special, beautiful and absolutely adored and that I’m sorry to have played a part in a system that failed him so miserably.

I will also reiterate my mantra to him that “You are Responsible for You” and that, remember, “It’s not too late to make a better Choice” but I’m afraid that’s a bit of a lie.  It may be too late now and really, being responsible for yourself from such an early age is a bit of a joke.   Someone else should have been responsible for this child, and the so many others like him.

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If this doesn’t change or alter your views on education, on crime, on the way children are treated in this country, at least allow it to change your perspective on these individuals.   Akin is a full blown criminal now,  please don’t begin to mistake me.   But it wasn’t even because he actively went out and made these choices.  As his story unfolds, gang members recruited him, – this child,-  as they do many children… from the Children’s Home where he should have been safe.   Criminals recruited him when he was 13 years old, the same age he was when we visited the Hibachi Grill.   They prey on the weaknesses that these children have, no family, no one to protect them and to love them and they promise them all of this, all of the basic human needs that they have been deprived of for so long… they promise these to them – at the price of their lives.

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And so, when Dawn asked me to guest blog this summer, I began a story on motherhood.  A story that I felt and still do feel was important.   However, I began to think further and concluded that if I had an opportunity to let a story reach others, then really, Akin’s was far more important.

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Please say a prayer for my beautiful boy tonight.  Say a prayer that if nothing else, he harms no one else and stays in prison.   He truly didn’t know better, wasn’t ever given any other tools, and yet, because as a society, education wasn’t important enough to us then, incarceration must be our top priority for him now.

Thanks to the ladies of Our Cups Runneth Over for giving me this format to share his voice, for it’s about all I have left to do for him now-  to share this story, his story…. and I feel I owe it to him and to the so many little babies like him, to do so.

 

Kerry - June 14, 2011 - 9:59 pm

Thank you, Kristie, for taking the time to share Akin’s story. It saddens me that there are so many children like him still in our country. I am also a teacher and I have adored children much like your boy. I will say a prayer for him tonight…and every night!

Again, I appreciate your words, honesty, and compassion!
Kerry

Kristie - June 13, 2011 - 10:40 am

Thank you, Anna, for your kind words, and for submitting this- for helping to share his story and mine, I am deeply grateful. – Kristie

Anna ~ Random Handprints - June 10, 2011 - 10:22 am

thank you for sharing such a powerful and hearbreaking story. those of us with so much (myself and my kids included) really do need to do more for those with so much less. i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – i volunteer so many hours at my kids’schools, but never at the schools in newark which are just a few miles away and where i would think the time would be of so much more value. next school year, i’m going to make sure to carve out some hours for those kids, too.

Cindy - June 9, 2011 - 8:35 pm

This story brings me to tears and ashamed for not trying to do more to help children. where do we start?

Kristie - June 9, 2011 - 8:10 pm

Thank you, Sharon… sharing his story was very special to me today. Thank you again to Dawn and these ladies for allowing me the space to do so.

Sharon - June 9, 2011 - 4:05 pm

This is gorgeous, Kristie. I with that the three of us could go grab coffee – you, me and Dawn. I feel like we have so many stories we could share and like you two ladies probably understand pieces of me that many of the people I spend time with just don’t. Sometimes you have to just do a certain kind of work to understand the world in a certain kind of way. Anyhow….

Kim B - June 9, 2011 - 9:24 am

Andrea – I’m so agreeing with you. I’m wiping them as I type this! Thanks so much for such a touching post! I also worked in the Juvenile Court system and know some of your stories. Just breaks my heart!! Wonderful story to bring awareness to us all!

Kristie - June 9, 2011 - 9:22 am

Thank you, Andrea.

Andrea - June 9, 2011 - 8:50 am

So, I’m getting stared at here at my work, because I literally have tears streaming down my face. This might be one of my favorite posts that we have featured. What an incredible story… thank you for sharing it.

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