So one of the kiddos that weighed so heavy on my heart is back.
He was sent off to a residential treatment facility for 4 months to get clean and sober and get on track again.
And now he has returned home. The home where he was beaten with electric cords. Where he chose to smoke pot and run with a gang than to return home.
The house is up for sale now as the parents consider the neighborhood the problem. It is a beautiful home, decorated like a magazine and spotless. Upper middle class. Tasteful. Spacious. But just across the back lot and a creek, exists a poorer community. Filled with public housing, drugs, crime and desperation.
But the phrase "You can't judge a book by its cover" kept coming to mind as I sat with the family discussing why they were back in our program.
Just as surely as poverty steals hope in the community just behind them, they stole hope from this young man.
They don't see the effect of their "discipline". They don't see it as abuse. They don't see his strengths.
Before he was sent away months ago, I managed to say to him "I believe you. I believe in you. Don't give up on yourself."
As I sat there the other night, I pointed out his strengths. I pointed out his intelligence and growth. I asked his parents to focus on the positive and reward good behaviors as what they had done in the past did not make things better, only worse. He would sit and lock in on my gaze, looking me in the eyes as before. But he looked healthy now. Clean. Sober.
We cannot change much of his environment. He will be in the same school. The same neighborhood. The same peer group. All we can do is try to find him support.
He is back on my heart, back in my prayers.
As I left, I went to shake his hand, instead he hugged me. And in that hug, I felt hope.
God Bless his journey and keep him safe.