A day in court can emphasize the need to have purpose in your life. For many of my middle class friends the idea that one needs to have purpose in one’s life is a no-brainer. It’s one of those statements that will be met with a sarcastic remark. Something along the lines of, “no kidding,” or worse.
This is not the case for many of the young men and young women I have seen in court. Far too many live in state of stunted animation. There is no planning for a better tomorrow. What comes along, comes along. For many that something is idle time, which indeed is the devil’s workshop. Even if there are thoughts of a goal there is no hurry. Entertainment is king and so goals can wait.
The day of court can be like the drunk who is about to be sick, he is full of regret and false promises. Unfortunately, if I was wrong, the recidivism rates of repeat offenders would be much lower, but they aren’t. I have been in court numerous times in my life alongside young men I mentor. Most have been repentant in those moments, but the lesson has really not taken root.
There have been a few who have learned their lesson and have never gone back to the friends or activities which landed them in court. In order to make this change there has to be a powerful motivating force. This force must create a need to examine his values and make changes accordingly. When I hear a kid say “I’m gonna be good,” I know we’re doomed to repeat this cycle soon. “Good” must be defined.
Communication is the most vital part of a relationship. Bad communication is better than none at all and yet many relationships do not work at communicating. Sometimes we behave as if we can put our relationship on autopilot and we will live in bliss with no effort. There is no such thing as auto pilot when it comes to relationship.
Most every relationship that is experiencing problems began with a breakdown in communication. It requires work, real work, to communicate effectively. The biggest problem we create is we believe that all the sweet talk we do at the beginning of a relationship is the norm. It isn’t. We are simply flirting or getting to know each other, finding common ground. Yes it feels good, but most of the time that sort of conversation is shallow.
Our selection of a significant other, to a degree, reflects our self image. Some of the teens and young adults I have mentored continue to choose the same sort of people that they just broke up with. The values of the new boyfriend or girlfriend is no different than the last ones. And what do they have in common? My young mentees share these same values with their significant other. Surprised?
Many times I have asked about their situation and heard the disappointment in their voices at the way they are treated, again. Some have even justified the abuse they receive. One young lady told she deserves to be hit by her boyfriend. No human being deserves abuse, but until a person values themselves this will continue. True change begins with self, first.
“Mr. Augie they killed him!” the voice on the phone nearly shouted. It was “Bill” and he was crying. His best friend, a young man I had mentored, “Charlie,” had been murdered. He was gunned down by rivals. I always knew that this was a possibility, but I had never prepared for the moment. It was here and it left me feeling desperate, helpless .
The death of a teen, especially to violence, will never make sense to the rational mind. The next few days were a blur as I tried to go on with my life through my tears and darkness. He was 16 years old. That’s all. He had not started to live yet. All the memories of our conversations, our letters when he was in prison and our outings flooded my thoughts.
Even though time has moved on now and I have accepted his death, the memories of that day are still painful.
A mentor is not a surrogate parent. Although this should be obvious I have met mentors who somehow, along the way begin to behave as if they are the parent, although they are one with no authority. When the mentor arrives at this conclusion they have left their moorings as a mentor and are embarking on a new journey. Don’t mix the two.
There are several reasons why this line should not be crossed. The most important of which is that a child no matter how badly he has had it, will always love and desire to have his own parent’s, not a surrogate. The greatest strength of a mentor is that no matter what happens the mentor continues to be involved in the life of his mentee.
Following through with plans, especially ones that were made and agreed to, is one of the keys to a successful life.
An excerpt from an actual conversation:
“Hi, this is Augie. Just checking in and confirming that we are meeting tomorrow for lunch.” The other end of the line was silent. He finally spoke up.
“Hey, sorry man, I was going to call you. I’m not going to make it. I had something come up.” We small talked for a few minutes and then hung up. So what happened? It could be that my young mentee has something important he has to take care of, but the mostly likely scenario is he forgot about plans and has something else that interests him more.
The issue isn’t that he isn’t going to meet with me. The issue is not following through, not understanding the hidden rules of successful society. He doesn’t understand that you write down your appointments and you control them. You let people know of a conflict ahead of time. Professionalism isn’t learned at college or in the work force. These skills are enhanced in those places. We learn to be professional by first being responsible.