Life is not fair. This saying simply and perfectly sums up how I felt last Tuesday night. I received a phone call from Yolanda, a single mother whose two sons are in a mentoring program. Yolanda was crying uncontrollably. She cried so hard that for the first minute or two I could not understand what she was even saying. Eventually, she calmed down enough to tell me that the older of her two boys Marcus had been arrested for shoplifting. She proceeded to tell me that Marcus was stealing a coat for his younger brother Darrion. Darrion was being mocked and bullied relentlessly because his clothes are old, his coat is too small and smelly, and his shoes have holes. Marcus felt bad for Darrion and wanted to help him out so he stole a coat but was caught. I told Yolanda that I would spend time with her two boys the next day. She thanked me multiple times. We finished the conversation by her repeatedly telling me that the boys were “good boys,” she is trying hard and the whole situation is her fault.
Fast forward one day and I am eating with Marcus and Darrion. I asked them what happened and Marcus simply apologizes for letting me down. I honestly do not know how to respond as I know Marcus had good intentions.
From knowing Marcus for a year, it is clear that Marcus is a good kid as his mom repeatedly mentioned last night. He is smart and hardworking (on the honor roll). He is kind, well-liked, and sticks up for his classmates, who are being picked on. He is athletic (he plays football and runs track at Benson High School). He has goals and talks about being the first person in his family to graduate from college.
After an awkward silence after Marcus has finished verbally beating himself up, I am “saved” by Darrion. Darrion says that the whole situation is his fault and he is sorry. I am equally stunned by Darrion’s willingness to shoulder the blame. Darrion is 13 years old and has been bullied terribly. He has told me at previous mentoring outings that he loves class but dreads passing periods because he knows that kids are going to shove him, mock him, and generally try to torment him until he cries. Darrion is the most grateful person I have ever met and thanks me at least 5 separate times during a mentor outing. With this in mind, maybe I should have expected Darrion’s next comment. Darrion tells me that he was going to see if I could buy him a coat but he feels bad for bothering me or asking me to do anything else. This comment makes me feel awful. I immediately respond to Darrion that he is never bothering me and to call me, Mark, or anybody else from the Center for absolutely anything. I tell Darrion and Marcus that they are remarkable boys that have overcome more in their short lives than I ever will (their father was gunned down a few years ago while waiting at a stop light).
Darrion and Marcus are not just “good boys.” Darrion and Marcus are great boys. Life is not fair. Even so, Darrion and Marcus remain upbeat and two people that I am proud to know.