I have watched my Juvie girls get released from the incarceration facility where I first met them only to see them come right back within weeks after their release.
I have watched others find a new path, begin a new story and blossom into who they could be and were meant to be.
I have watched my own children grow, sometimes making me incredibly proud and sometimes leaving me in complete dismay that we share the same DNA.
In one of the facilities I am in, the group isn’t really a group.
It is just a few girls and they don’t want to do theater or drama.
Doing theater for such a small group challenging. And if the group itself is challenging well then, it’s double jeopardy.
So we are redirecting by focusing on writing and art.
It is interesting for me, because I need to be creative and innovative, transforming my regular theater based curriculum into a more visual art curriculum.
Today we watched the video of Flowers Aren’t Enough, my one-woman show on domestic violence.
I chose to show them the video as opposed to performing it, which I thought would be better for such a small audience.
It ended up being too much. They couldn’t get through it. It reminded them of who they were. It reminded them of their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends.
I think watching it on video, made it easier for them to get up and leave. Because they aren’t walking out on me -
It made me think about how easy it is for many of us to watch from afar,
walk away and leave.
I have had the opportunity to watch up-close.
I am telling you, if you choose to stay, you can make a difference.
You can be the difference!
Watching is really about the person we are watching being seen.
Watch me! Watch me, my children have asked me again and again.
My middle one, being the persistent as she is, adds her finger poking me on my arm.
The little one will physically put her hand on my chin to pull my face to the direction she is in.
See me! See me! See me!
My girls in Juvie are the opposite.
They are so used to being invisible, that they actually don’t like being watched.
“What are you looking at, Ms.?” she asked.
“I’m listening to you read,” I answer.
“So why are you looking at me?” she asks.
“’Cause I want to see you.”
“Why would you want that?”
“’Cause your words matter to me.”
Her shock instantly is masked with a little anger and attitude.
She’s trying so hard to hide so that I don’t see her.
When the class is over she comes to me.
“The play, Ms. that was me. The lady in the movie, who’s man hit her?
That was my story. That is who I am.”
“No,” I said,
“that is one of your stories. That is not the story that will define you, and that is not the story that is all of you. That is only part of you.”
“Well, that story got me here,” she says. “That is THE story of my life”
I watch this young woman who has a beautiful face, a wicked tongue and great writing talent, and a good, no great, taste in music.
I think of all the stories she could tell,
The stories I hope she will tell.
Stories of success.
Stories of happiness.
Stories of laughter.
She helps me clean up.
I say to her, “Listen to a story.”
“There was once a sweet, smart girl. She had joy, love and potential in her hand. Then she met a boy who took those things from her. He gave her darkness and taught her evil, and she got lost and taken away. She was far, so far from where she used to be and who she used to be.
She was locked up in a place she didn’t want to be in, a place that made her sad. But then something changed. And the girl started to change and…”
“And then what?” She asks me
“I don’t know. It’s your story to make, to be, to become.”
“You are fucking kidding me,” she says.
“No, I am not kidding at all. You will weave the story. You will be the story. You will find pleasure and beauty. It will be hard and disappointing and wonderful and sad. There will be a bunch of different stories, and in the end they will all come together to be you.”
“What about you?” she asks.
“I will watch. I will be here. I will believe.
And I will make sure the story is told.” I answer.
She is quiet
We look at each other.
She is not a warm one this one.
“You saw all that when you listened to my reading?”
“Yes, I did, and more.”
“You should work for the FBI, Ms.”
We both laugh. I put my hand on her shoulder.
“I can’t wait to hear your stories.”
She smiles and I watch her walk away.