Isaac sat alone on the floor. Thomas, the middle school’s Site Coach, had heard about Isaac, “He’s the toughest kid to work with in the school. He doesn’t do anything, never did, never will because these kids know the system—they know they’ll pass without any work.” Isaac proved it out, he had all F’s.
Thomas, a big Polynesian guy from the “streets,” had one mission, go love the unlovable. Thomas walked over to Isaac, bent down and introduced himself, “I want to talk with you.” Isaac listlessly responded, “What-ever.” “Are you going to make me lower my big body to the floor, or can we walk over to those chairs and sit down?” Thomas asked, extending his hand and motioning to a more private place. Lethargically, Isaac took Thomas’s hand as he helped him to his feet.
Settled in their “space,” Thomas opened with a question in familiar street language, “You stay with your parents?” Thomas learned Isaac’s dad left a long time ago. His mom had a boyfriend who came and went. “How many siblings you got?” Thomas asked next. “Two,” Isaac said, all younger with the littlest 2 years old.
“So, how you feel? What’s going on with you as a person?” Thomas probed through the pain and anger he sensed. Then Isaac broke down. Through his tears he replied bitterly, “I go home, I’m the dad and the big brother. I watch over my siblings, make sure they do what they’re supposed to. I clean up. I cook.” Just an 8th grader, Isaac was hurting and really mad. “At school I’m the kid. At home I’m the adult. I’m mad at my dad for the role he left me in . I’m mad at my mom because at home I’m expected to do everything!”
Thomas simply affirmed his pain, anger and his ‘situation.’ Then Thomas told Isaac a story of another boy he knew. Born out of rape to a mom on the streets, the boy’s anger from abandonment had manifested into crime and violence. “How’s that kid now?” prodded a now interested Isaac. “Oh, he graduated from high school and now he’s in college.”
“You can do it too, Isaac,” Thomas encouraged. “School is stupid,” Isaac defended. So Thomas asked, “How about your siblings, you want them to do well in school?” Isaac responded aggressively, “Yes! They better!” Thomas queried, “Then what about you? What example are you going to be for them?”
As they were about to end the conversation, Thomas reached for Isaac’s hand, drew him in close, gave him a bear hug and said, “Hey dude, I got you now. I got your back.” Isaac looked directly at Thomas, “Dude, you made me cry.” You see, with no dad, surrounded by brokenness, a boy learns about being a man from the ‘streets’ and the internet. There is no such thing as crying.
The rest of the story? Isaac had a big project coming up in a history class. “You need to do this,” Thomas encouraged, “for your siblings.” Isaac completed his first project. For the first time he stood before his class, with note cards in hand, the poster board he put together at his side. Also for the first time, his teacher smiled at him, later telling Thomas it was a miracle.
Excited for the first time, Isaac told Thomas, “I had so much more I wanted to say, but my time ran out.” Yep, Isaac has a lot more to say, and there is still time. From all F’s, Isaac’s grades finished just above a 2.0.
So that’s what you support at Jubilee REACH. I love listening to these stories from our school Site Coaches, like Thomas, who love the Isaacs in their schools through their pain and anger to hear the truth of their heart and affirm the potential of every student. They won’t let time run out on any kid.
Thanks for your support, prayers and encouragement,