It Was a Crazy Night at Work Tonight

I work with a kid who is straight-up thug. On top of that, he has an untreated case of schizophrenia that’s running wild. He might also have some serious addictions issues. I’m not sure it’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard, ‘cause I’ve heard some incredibly sad stories, but it’s certainly up there. I started to tear up while he was talking with me tonight, and I’ve never done that during work. He is so hurt and broken and lost that it cuts you up inside. He is so incredibly dangerous; to himself and to others.

When I look at him, I see the manifestation of a broken world, and I torn between a profound and legitimate fear for my life and safety, and the life and safety of the others in my building and a deep desire to see this kid have a stable home and be in a place where he can be safe.

Tonight, I walked in while he was swinging an angle grinder around in one hand and a steak knife in the other at a group of youth who’d stabbed someone earlier in the night. Seriously. He was terrified for his life, and the lives of others he cared about, and the high-pitched shriek of the angle grinder screamed a shrill note of emphasis in the soundtrack of his distress.

The violence in this world needs to stop. The circle of healing simply needs to start at some point. It is so truly sad and depressing to me that this burden falls to children who’ve been cast aside; children whose yoke and burden is already weighted down more than anyone deserves.

He leads such a totally violent life as he inadvertently explains while vividly describing the horrible stories of violence he’s witnessed and has had to consider committing if he felt threatened. He will never have a normal life; he will never feel safe in his home. I feel for him so much.

I was so touched when he expressed a sincere and emotional desire to sacrifice his life to save mine in the insane drama of violence and hurt that he plays out in his mind. He really would sacrifice his life to defend the other people in this building. It’s just so sad that these paranoid images and visions that flood his mind make him feel like he needs to.

I look at him, and I wish with all of my might that I could show him somehow that the cycle of violence has to stop; forgiveness has to begin. I listen to him recount the incredible abuse he and his brother and sister experienced in their child-hood and the senseless violence they commit now as a manifestation of the horrible experiences they have had growing up, and I just wish I could some how show him the radical truth that it just has to stop. Somehow, they have to forgive and end the cycle. It is so sad that this burden is played out by a set of 17 and 18 year old kids.

I try to pray for him nightly, as I do the other kids in this building. I hope to be honest and available with them in my work; sincere in my efforts to support them with what little resources I have. I don’t think it’s enough, but I hope that the combined efforts of time can help move us closer to healing. Maybe it won’t and healing for all will never be a truth. Maybe the best we will get is a few years, months maybe, of stable living. This kid is such a hard and dedicated worker when he can keep thing stable, yet he is so tragically doomed to a sad inevitable cycle of fear.

As a teacher, my greatest aspiration is to give kids something to aspire to that is more than a life of perpetual fear. Fear of violence; fear of reprisal; fear of loosing friends and loved ones; fear of no control over ones life. Heck, even prison isn’t even much of a concern given the meaningless freedoms experienced in the world.

If there is any one lesson I could give him, it would be whatever lesson it takes to give him hope and a sense of safety. The noblest goal I could have as a teacher would be to give these kids enough knowledge so that they could see a way out of the dead end they are racing towards. If the way they have been treated leaves entitles them to feel every bit as angry as they do, then I seek to these teach these children how to walk along the path of forgiveness.

– Nathan

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