A Story of a Boy…Akin…Take Two…

Introduction by Dawn.  Guest Post written by Kristie Jones (re-posted after the first post on June 9, 2011).

When Kristie sent me her guest post in early June it touched me. I knew it would touch others so I was very anxious for the date to come for which it would post. But then when the day came, I must say I was overwhelmed at the response. It was greater than I imagine. Kristie and her beautiful writing style touched so many people. And made people stop and think.  And even made one lovely lady nominate Kristie’s post for an award…yes, you heard me right…AN AWARD…maybe even a major award

And what is even better and more exciting than being one of the nominees…WAS THAT SHE WAS ONE OF THE WINNERS. Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up.

Kristie was nominated for a BlogHer Voices of the Year award in the Perspectives category. There were around 1000 entrants and 20 winners in each category, for a total of 90 winners…AND KRISTIE WAS ONE OF THOSE 90.  AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! (that’s my screaming in excitement voice!!).  AND, she was the People’s Choice Award winner in her category, which means that she received the most votes in the Perspectives category. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

We are so excited for Kristie…she most definitely deserves the award!!  And thanks to Anna Sandler at Random Handprints for nominating Kristie!!  In honor of Kristie’s achievement, we are rerunning her post, in case anyone missed it. If you have not read it, it is definitely worth the time to read it.  If you have already read it, it is definitely worth of a reread.

Congratulations again, Kristie…we are so proud of you.

***************

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??

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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.

 

 

Kristin - August 8, 2011 - 11:37 am

I have had this bookmarked for days now, and I just read it. It’s heart-breaking, and so true. One of the hazards of teaching, especially in less-than-ideal environments, is becoming attached to the children we want to save and guide and help. It’s a bitter-sweet attachment. Even less than parents, we can’t stop them from making choices or growing up or scampering down a path we know will end up in the dark.

Thank you for sharing this, and I hope it inspires more and more people to consider children (and the grown-ups they become) as individuals who will and do make good and bad choices – just like we all do.

Anna ~ Random Handprints - July 19, 2011 - 11:46 am

Congrats, Kristie! I’m so glad your writing is being recognized and that so many people are reading your incredible post.

Thanks for the shoutout, and I also have to thank New Mom on the Blog whose tweet is how I found this…

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*

There was an error submitting your comment. Please try again.

F a c e b o o k
T w i t t e r
F r i e n d s   o n   T w i t t e r