It was near 95 degrees outside. The weight of the door felt like a ton of bricks placed in an orange sack. As I walked down the long corridor I felt like the walls were closing in on me. The smell was old and reeked of mold, the kind you find on Grandma’s old clothes from the 60’s. But I felt like this was a place that they used to house the souls of those who weren’t strong enough to fight for its freedom. My eyes began to water. But, I fought back the tears because I told myself I would cry NO MORE TEARS for this guy! By the time I reached the elevator that would seem to catapult me to a location that I never wanted to be in the first place, I felt like someone placed that sack of bricks on my lungs and I was desperately chanting in my head, “Breathe, Breathe!”
The day prior I was angry. I was angry with him. This was the same him I had begged my mother to, “Please, please choose that name! Name him after me!” My only brother. So I could understand how the citizens of the town where he resides, the town I serve with my whole heart and grew up in too could be angry as well. But, I didn’t feel the same detachment from his life that they felt. In terror and disbelief I pondered, how could one belittle him down to the “punk” who “deserves the buckshots between his eyes” (in the words of some citizens). Although I was disgusted to hear of what took place on that dreadful day and I was horrified, not for my brother, but for the victim; for the family/person who had their space intruded upon. I wondered and thought about asking God, “How can someone you love so much turn into your worse nightmare?” I thought, “How could you spend YOUR LIFE trying to reach children by the masses and not be able to reach the one very close to you, who you love so much and watched grow from infancy?”
BUT I COULDN’T STOMACH KNOWING THAT SOME PEOPLE WISHED HE HAD BEEN SHOT AND REMOVED FROM THE SCENE IN A BODY BAG INSTEAD OF CUFFS.
I didn’t dare interrogate God with such questions that I already know the answer to. Instead I chose to call those thing that be not, as they were (Romans 4:17).
So on this summer day, I found myself in a place with other broken hearts visiting my brother in the county jail only knowing what the newspaper and thousands of people were mindlessly sharing online. Not there or here to make excuses for his actions, simply there to say, “I love you!” You see, the thing about unconditional love, the kind that God wants us to give to EVERYONE is that it doesn’t change just because the situation changes. It requires us to harness all other emotions so that love prevails for all. Therefore, the first thing I said to him was something I have said to him over and over again for the past 10 months since I began to notice the depression in his eyes, the loss of hope in his body language, the increased risk in his actions, the sadness of his words… “Pick your head up Bro’… You are kind, You are important, You are special.” Remorsefully, he replied, “It doesn’t seem like it.”
My brother needs help and there are many other young men, women, little boys and girls who didn’t wake up one day and decide, “I want to jail when I grow up!” I can only pray to God that he is in a place mentally to accept the help this time!
I really pray that before people begin to comment on what should be done when at risk teens find themselves in a world of serious trouble, that they don’t spew directives about how many bullets they deserve between their eyes or years they should rot behind bars and how the country doesn’t need more restrictions for weapons but stricter repercussions against criminals. Please take a moment to pray for your community and offer a helping hand when it’s asked for.
The thing is that most teens and young adults behind bars were labeled, “At-Risk” before they got there. I am not asking for anyone to take responsibility for my brother’s choices or the actions of others who get in trouble. We all have free will. In fact, I teach my students and loved ones that life is about choices and the choice you make determines whether you receive a good consequence or a bad consequence. But what I am asking is that WE PAY MORE ATTENTION TO OUR AT RISK YOUTH BEFORE THEIR NAMES END UP IN THE NEWS FOR THE WRONG REASONS. Let’s question why programs for their benefit in our communities are being dismantled. Let’s show up to make sure the funding for that population of youth is used accordingly. Go a bit deeper. When you see a parent struggling to gain control of their child, help create a support system instead of passing judgment. Don’t make your friend’s name into a HASHTAG, (#FREEmyBOY) because you think that shows some sort of loyalty. Instead, be there to encourage them to take a different path and not to become stuck in that hashtag or make you create one that reads #RESTinPEACE next.
My life is dedicated to reaching children in my local communities. I WILL NEVER STOP. In fact, this situation is just pushing me further and makes me more dedicated to the calling on my life; no matter what people say or think.
I just pray that more people would join me.
On July 15th I walked down that same corridor feeling determined not to sob uncontrollably or succumb to any emotion other than hope. I paced back and forth as the very polite officers greeted other people who were at the gloomy location for the same reason. Finally I said loudly, “I am going to pray. I visited my brother for the 1st time here the other day and it was the worst thing that I ever had to do in my life. So I am going to pray; pray for you, pray for your loved ones and my brother.” One person declined saying, “I am not the praying kind of person!” I proceeded to pray aloud and when I was the done the room full of family members chimed, “AMEN” including the lady who rejected the prayer, but this time she was sobbing.
*I welcome your prayers, comments, questions and concerns. More importantly I want to partner with you to reach our children by the masses.*