Today was a day.
My oldest daughter went to orientation at a new middle school. When we got there she quickly made friends, turned and looked at me and whispered, “Ema, (Hebrew for mom) it’s okay. Leave.”
I walked away only a little. She couldn’t see me but I watched her whisked away with a flurry of 11 year old girls giggling and laughing. I sighed a sigh of relief. She is going to be fine.
Today is Thursday. Thursday I spend in jail with my other girls.
I have a new group and they are not easy. Lots of gang members, lots of attitude. The new group is always hard on my heart. In the end I always fall in love, but it takes time, and I miss the last group. This group is cautiously testing me; these girls are so tough.
There are days that I need to remind myself that change is going to happen. This program will change them. I have seen it.
This is my twelfth group in juvie and today was the day that change seemed almost impossible.Today was the day that a fourteen-year-old girl, not a lot older that my middle-schooler, told me about her thirty-year-old mom who is on the run, “because she has two strikes with the law and the next one, well, they could give her life.”
In the same breath she told me that her mom is her partner in crime. Today the same fourteen-year-old told me how everyone in her family is in the gang.
I ask her where she will go when she gets out of juvie. She tells me she'll go to her great, great-grandmother, who by the way isn’t a lot older than me.
“But kicking it there is not so good,” she explains. Last time her great, great-grandma followed her to the store where she was caught for armed robbery. “Thank goodness she didn’t come in. Who the hell knows what could have happened. You know my face was covered, but I felt she knew it was me. She stared at me. I swear she knew it was me, so I hid my gun behind my back.”
Today my answers seemed silly, my prayers very far, and change? Well, change seemed almost impossible. Yes, the new group is always hard on my heart. And on my soul.
I drove away and I could actually feel my soul hurting. From there I went to meet a girl who was in my last group. She is out. She is clean. She is in school. She will graduate in a few months and is already enrolled in a local college.
I hired her to work for me, and I swear to you, I could hear my heart sing.
“I am so proud of you” I smiled at her. We were both quiet, I had to hold back my tears. I talked about her wages and explained how it would work. She was so happy.
It seems she isn’t really listening. I laugh and I tell her this is important, never take less than minimum wage, this is what it will look like, and she says, “I’m just so happy to work with you. I have changed. I’m gonna do good.”
“I know you are,” I said. “I know”.
Today was a day, my heart has no more room to feel. I come home and my child tells me about her new school. She is happy. I breathe.
I have said it before and I remind myself again. Change is slow, change is hard, and it can be exhausting.
You cannot push someone to change, only pull, and encourage them toward it. And then, when you don’t even notice, it happens, and it is there, right in front of you. It isn’t huge; it isn’t earth shattering. It is simple, and honest, fresh, calm and beautiful.
My God, it is beautiful.