I was taking a personal break on my patio “war room,” and a young black man -19yo I came to find out – happened by. Much to my surprise this stranger asked me if he could come sit and talk for he “did not like to smoke a cig alone” and he really needed someone to talk to. Right away, I could tell he was very upset and angry. He sat on my bench while I was at my table. ‘Joe’ told me he was so angry at his mom; his words were jumbled, his story all over the place.
I could lie and tell you I wasn’t at first nervous, a million fearful things going through my head especially as a single mom of three. Should I excuse myself and get in my home asap? Did he assume I was racist because of the color of my skin? Would he think I was automatically deserving of harm because I was white? After-all, it seems every where you turn ‘whites’ are being berated and condemned.
Five seconds later, I continued to hold my ground; kept my butt on my chair and admonished myself for almost giving into the fear. Naturally, and understandably, many of you would criticize me for not leaving.
But I did not. And I listened.
I listened to a young man, just graduated from high school, who worked his a$$ off at various jobs at night, who had to change schools in the middle of his senior year after moving three times prior with his mom.
A kid who loved his mom, respected her and held close the values of right and wrong. One who wanted to turn the tables and protect her from harm, ensure she was safe and happy before moving on himself.
A boy whose father was never present, incarcerated since his son was born, trusting and being emotionally hurt by his mom’s boyfriends.
A boy who, despite their closeness, found out via his mom’s FB page she was marrying a new man, maybe moving hundreds of miles away with his brothers.
A young man who understand his mom is also a woman with her own needs but could not understand why he was blocked out of this area of her life. And it wasn’t the first time.
A young man who was worried he would have to turn to violence and seek her out to kill anyone who did her wrong. I could emphasize for when you are dealing with unknowns, you tend to assume the worst.
I listened to the love he had for his mom, the memories of her constant caring. Of times of despair that his mom changed to hope: Thanksgivings when he thought it would be another day of cereal and water because the cupboards were bare but coming home from work to find a full spread of great food, from turkey to “chitlins and all the fixings.” There were Christmases that somehow his Mom managed to change their home of survival to joy and hope, presents neath a beautiful Christmas tree.
I heard a young boy who would reach out in the middle of the night in tears and be comforted by his mom no matter what.
A young man who talked with pride how he could come to his mom about girlfriend advice and how his first love automatically called his mom ‘mom’ as well.
A child/boy/man who said his mom was and is his best friend, and nothing could change that.
You see, it wasn’t the anger I was listening for – it was for what was really in his heart.
So I am not going to go into lengthy details about all the things he was angry about, which were understandable and some legitimate.
I didn’t stop to give lengthy speeches about unicorns and sunshine and silver linings. Who DOES want to hear that when we at our lowest?
And he didn’t need to hear a detailed story on why I could empathize with his feelings. Just a little assurance here and there that I ‘got it.’
But somehow it was just enough for him to envision going forward, that 2016 was actually to be a fresh start.
‘Joe’ figured out the answer all by himself as he opened his heart up to not only me, but God and himself.
His speaking got clearer, more confident and hopeful. The angry rambling disappeared and his true voice boomed. There was a glow about him.
He even created an affirmation for 2016: To get what he wants, he has to get what he needs.
Take small steps, re-correcting his path as needed, I reminded him. Don’t be discouraged because setbacks are inevitable. I told him my motto for 2016 – ‘from surviving to thriving.’
I heard a young man right before me have an epiphany – that he cannot change his mom, he told her how he feels about her, that how how well she taught him to stand up for himself, to give and receive, to do “the right thing.” To always repay a debt.
It is up to her to now, he realized, and when she is ready, she will to come to him.
‘Joe’ told me on the morning of the 1st he was going to be at Church. He was going to say goodbye to the old, go forward and not look back. Life is really great, a gift. Hate, anger, regrets – thrown out with the trash. That’s the old, he said; no looking back and being sucked in.
The young man told me it is now his time to go forth in life. To use the gifts God has given him and the lessons his Mom taught, to not look back, refuse to be drug back into anger and depression. He knows it wont be easy, there are always challenges, but he realized that what he has gone through, God has helped make him stronger – and a survivor.
And it wasn’t until almost the end of our ‘talk’ that he told me he just had his appendix out last week.
I told him truthfully I saw a young man with a great future, and that I knew his mom must be so proud of him.
We even started joking and laughing – ‘Joe’ said he had not laughed like that in a very long time.
My kids, though awake, never once came out to see what was going on. Believe me, this was very surprising for at least one of them looks for me in five minutes if I am not in sight – lol.
Then one finally did come out – my youngest son. Naturally, X was taken aback by my visitor and any other time he would be grilling me right away. Instead, after I made a quick introduction, he smiled and said he’d be right back – he had to put his shoes on.
I made mention X just recently got out of the hospital and I didn’t want him outside long at all, and that’s when ‘Joe’ told me of his recent appendicitis.
X came out, sat down at the table and asked what we were talking about. At the same time, without missing a beat, we both replied, ‘Life.’
And that brought much laughter again.
‘Joe’ soon parted – I gave the child/young boy/young man a mom hug and blessings. He thanked me profusely and was surprised himself that I was willing to talk to some strange kid walking around.
‘Goodbye’ seemed so final so I told him maybe we’d bump into each other again. He replied, maybe but only until the 1st. After that, he would be one his new path.
So here’s to 2016 – a new beginning.
Don’t be dragged down by fear and the past.
Be still, open your heart and listen.