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Confrontation and Redemption

Publication Date: 2003-07-12

Here is a remarkable snippet from a day at the World of Opportunity, a portrait of a teacher trying to help a student learn about confrontation and redemption--through words of reconciliation.


How objective can a
subjective teacher be?

James just turned 16.
That's a dangerous age
for a young man
in this community.

Had he turned 14,
I would have wrote:
That's a dangerous age
for a young man
in this community.

James' Dad is about 32.
That's a dangerous age
for a young man
in this community.

James caught my attention.
I met him when he was volunteering
as a counselor
for the Summer Youth Camp
across the street from the
World of Opportunity (WOO).

One day, James wandered into the
WOO.

He said, "I need some money."

He wasn't begging in the slightest.

He was searching.

Searching for an honest way to make a living.

"I volunteer at the camp, but I don't
get paid nothing.
I need some money.
But I keep volunteering because
they give me a free breakfast
and a free lunch
and I figure that takes a load
off my Dad."

Takes a load off my Dad!!!! ???? !!!

Can you imagine?

Have you ever?

How many 16 year old kids
do you know
that consider
how they can take a load
off their parents?

Unfortunately,
there are thousands
who have to worry about such.

Who can worry about
fancy rims on "tight whip" cars
when you've got to worry about breakfast
and lunch?

Since I met James, he has
been perpetually hungry.
(And we're addressing that).

Worrying about taking a load off his Dad....

I couldn't get this
off of my mind.

So I got to thinking,
where would it be possible
to locate James
a small job
where he could at least
make some spare change?

There are so few opportunities
in this land-locked
poverty-ridden
buildings-boarded up
neighborhood.

Few opportunities for life
few chances to escape this peril
and a million temptations
to dance with death.

And then I thought
of the good fellow
up the street
who owns
one of the two
markets in this neighborhood.

He's on our Community Advisory Board
so you know he's a good fellow.

How could he be anything
other than a good fellow.

Without even blinking an eye,
he listened to James' story
through my lips and heart
and he said,
sight unseen,
"Sure,
I'll find a couple of hours
of work.
I'll interview him.
We'll give it a try."

That's the spirit of a community
Advisory Board.

So I told James
and he was excited.
He was fidgety
as I prepared a referral letter
for him to give
to the shop owner.

We folded it neatly
and put it
in an envelope.

I handed it to James
and
physically,
his back straightened up
like a man about to
step up to a ladder
on a space ship
that would
take him to the moon.

A smile came over
his sullen face
because he knew
that he was about to go out
and make a million dollars.

"I'm gonna make a lot
of money and take care of my Dad
because he's the ONLY one who
has ever taken care of me."

He marched up the street to
sow his fortune.

He came back
awfully quick.
Very
very
very
very much too quick.

What happened?, I asked.

"Well, if you would have told me
that it was HIM,
I would've known
this wouldn't work."

Did you and him get into it?

"Yep."

When?

"Yesterday."

Did you exchange words?

"Yep."

Were you abusive?

"Nope."

Did you cuss?

"Yep.
But I only did that
outside the store.
And,
oh, yah,
I gave him my middle finger."

What was this all about?

"Taxes.
He wanted to charge me
7 percent tax
for a soft drink.
That's unfair."

But, he doesn't set the tax rate.

"Oh."

The State of Alabama sets the tax rate.

"Oh."

So, your beef isn't with him, it with the State.

"Oh.......Well, what do I do now?"

Are you willing to apologize?

"How can I? How would I?"

Well.......how about writing a poem?
(I had seen some of James' poetry already
and admired his ways of expression.)

He dashed off to a WOO
desk and began
writing feverishly.
James has poor eye sight
from a serious injury
so he puts his nose
write into the paper
as he writes
and writes.

And within minutes
no more than five,
he hands me his paper.

I read it.
Three-hole punched
lined school paper.

But as I read it,
this is no ordinary
piece of paper.

I think it must be canvas.
Unframed.
With fresh paint
of many hues
drying on it.

So......
rather than throw poetry
in your face
or across your monitor,

I urge you to go to the WOO website
and click on NEWS,
and look for today's date,
July 11, 2003,
and read what James
came up with.

Get a glimpse
of restorative justice
as attempted at the WOO.

Get a feel for how our future thinks.

I know James would love to hear
what you think.

And, I would like to indulge you
to share
what I think
about this
before you even read his poem....

There is no bubblized test
in this world
which could measure
the lessons which James
has accumulated
in his life
and on this day.

Nor, is there a standard or a test
which could measure
what we
have learned from James
since our lives
have crossed paths.

The website for the World of Opportunity (WOO)
is:

http://school.al.com/school/worldofopportunity

Be sure to click on "NEWS" to get
to James' poetry--and other poems

Warmest peacebuilding greetings to one and all,

Steve Orel
World of Opportunity


Here is the response of confrontation and redemption:

July 11, 2003
CONFRONTATION!
A poem by Chaos, (aka: James Hall)

Confrontation!

So I walked in the store
grabbed a sprite
tax was high
so I picked a fight
wasn't right
it was just wrong
but I thought the tax was
too long
argued badly
had some words
outside still arguing with the
birds
got home
starting to drink my sprite
for me it was the end
the end of the night
come to find out
supposed to be my boss
in the confrontation
guess that I lost.

By CHAOS
? Copyright 2003, by James Hall
WOO resident poet


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