As a response to something I said, somebody told me that I am the strongest person they know but with the softest heart.
I laughed, because that is what I say about my girls in Juvie.
So vulnerable and yet so soft.
The street has given them unbelievable smarts, but, at the same time, it has robbed them of so much of their being.
“Ms., can I be in your group on the outs?”
“Absolutely,” I say.
“But, to be in the group you must be clean.” I add.
“Fuck this shit! Man, I ain't doing this motherfucker crap no more!”
Could she say any more curse words in one sentence?
“Okay,” I say. “Then we have a deal.”
I love this one. She has an amazing voice. I hope she finds me in the outs, because I want her voice to be heard -- her singing voice and her soul’s voice, because she has a lot to say.
She took the fall for a crime she didn't commit.
She took the blame for the boy she loved and he totally played her.
She wrote in her love poem:
I am strong. I am strong because you made me weak.
“Did you know, Ms., for every time your heart is broken, your fist gets stronger?”
“No, I didn't know,” I tell her. “I don't use my fists, but I do know that from failure or from pain we learn and grow and become better people.”
She looks at me amazed and asks, “What do you mean you don't use your fists? Ever?”
“No, I don't I don't use my fists. That's not what I do.
But I have been hurt really badly and I have become super strong from that.”
“How do you mean strong, Ms.?” she asks.
“I learned my lesson. I changed my behavior. I got perspective on things.” I answered.
“What's perspective?” she asks and everyone is listening.
“When you see things in a new way or in a different way or when you have something to compare it with.”
“Oh, like now I know that he (her ex boyfriend) is a dick? Is that a new perspective about him?”
I laugh out loud.
“Kind of,” I say as I think to myself, is it?
“I mean,” she says, “He used to be my ride or die. And now I hate him.”
“You hate him ‘cause you have a new perspective about him,” one girl says.
“No, I hate him ‘cause he is an asshole,” she answers.
And everyone starts laughing.
But it is in these laughing moments that I know they are letting the softness come out and this is where I can teach.
“Okay, let's talk about what it means to have a new perspective.
You make a mistake and come here,” I say.
“No, Ms., you get caught and you come here.
It's not about making mistakes. It's about getting caught doing them.”
This one is a really smarty-pants.
“Well,” I say slowly,
“You did something you probably should not have been doing, and you got caught doing it, and you ended up here. You kinda need to admit you didn't get caught knitting a sweater.”
They think I am very funny.
“Can you imagine the cop holding a gun at me for knitting?
I'd poke him with the needle,” one adds.
“That is not where I was going with this,” I say in a louder voice.
“Seriously,” I say.
“For a moment put aside why you are here.
Now that you are here, now what?”
“We do our time,” one says.
“Well, can you make good out of the time?
Can you have perspective on what's outside? About yourself?”
“Are you telling us to think different?”
“No, I'm asking you to look at things differently.
I am inviting you to use your time here differently.
I am saying being here sucks, but make the best of it. Use this place to get something.”
They start chatting.
“I got my GED here.”
“I got fat here.”
“How the hell did you get fat here? The food is nasty!”
“I got clean here.”
“I can't wait to smoke when I get out.”
“I got away from him here.”
It was quiet.
“Perspective is seeing something in a new way after you see something else,” I say.
“Perspective is understanding that things happen, but it is also learning how to grow from them.”
“I get it, Ms. Perspective is getting strong after your ass is whipped.”
“When I'm stoned, I have crazy ass perspective.”
“Very funny,” I say sarcastically.
“Here is the deal,” I say.
“I think having perspective makes you get strong and helps you understand better and, when you understand better, then you can heal or feel better.
Your heart can rest a little and maybe, that's when you can change a little.”
They heard me.
I see it in their faces.
“You know,” she tells me as she walks with me out of the gym.
“I think I have a new perspective about my situation.”
“What is it?” I ask.
She starts to cry.
“That is, if you let it, good can come out of the bad.”
“Yes, it can,” I say.
“I loved him so much and he used me.
I will never let that happen again.”
“I hope not,” I say.
“And I'm done doing stupid shit.”
“Good!” I say.
She wipes her tears.
“Perspective is a bitch, Ms.,” she adds.
“No, I say, “It's a blessing.”
“Its just hard sometimes to find the way to it!”
“Whatever!” she says and suddenly she is the 15-year-old she should be, she rolls her eyes at me.
“I’ll think about that,” she says and walks away.