Friday, May 04, 2007

Anthony


In the early 90's I ran an academic enrichment program in ten elementary schools on Saturday mornings.


I would recruit, train and organize volunteers to go into "at-risk" public schools to tutor and mentor children and I would regularly volunteer too.

The interesting thing (to me) was that hundreds of kids would attend.

Hundreds of children came to school on Saturday!

It spoke to how few options there were for them.

The children were all considered "low-income."

The principals of all ten schools told me that they believed the children were
desperate for attention from caring adults.

I remember the kids being terrifically interested in learning and excited to talk and laugh with us.

They would tell us things about each other.

Pretty rough things, actually.

From the school staff we learned which kids most likely got themselves up for school each morning and how many children showed up without having eaten anything.

We heard terribly sad things about the lives of the bright, young faces that sat before us eager to get started on math, reading, or science activities -- ANYTHING.

Anthony and I instantly connected.

It's funny how feeling connected with someone happens regardless of age differences. There are some kids that I just get, who seem to get me, and we click.

Anthony was like that. We clicked right away.

The other kids routinely gave Anthony a hard time and I couldn't figure out why. He was a good looking, friendly kid.

The other students made sure I knew
about Anthony's family.

His father was in prison for murder. His mother worked the streets. There were guns and drugs...

They taunted and teased him about it all in front of me,
judging him.

Knowing these things only made me feel all the more fiercely protective and loyal.
I just adored him.

Anthony's favorite activity was art.

He marvelled and delighted over the just-purchased art supplies the volunteers would bring to the "Saturday School."

Anthony confided in me that he dreamt he would be an artist
when he grew up.

That was the first time I wanted to help a child achieve a dream.

That week I went out and bought art supplies for him. Colored pencils, markers, drawing paper... I couldn't wait until Saturday. I knew he would be excited.

On Saturday he wasn't there.

The other kids told me that he "suddenly moved away" and didn't know anything more than that.

I never saw him again but I've never stopped thinking about him.

I hope he made it through and that I'll find him again someday, his work on the wall of a local gallery.


88 comments:

Jackie said...

Your kind heart never ceases to amaze me.

I hope you find him again someday too.

Ann M. said...

Last year my husband and I coached a little league team with the same kind of kids. When we had practice, we always let kids from other teams play with us because they had nowhere else to go. Kids would come to practice in filthy uniforms, no equipment, not having eaten. They talked about their home life and its so scary. A lot of our kids disappear, too. One day they're on the field, the next day their rowhome is plywooded over.

It hurts because there isn't much we can do...only put out a hand to help them pull themselves up and out of their situation. And that's what you have done for him. You probably made more of an impact on him than any other adult he has come into contact with. I am sure that Anthony will never forget you either. I hope that you meet up with him again someday.

the new girl said...

Through my work, I've had this experience also. And I often wonder what's become of the children who've touched my life in this way.
Great post.

charlottalove said...

I just found your blog this week and really enjoy the posts. Today's made me think: what happened to that boy? Did he go on to make something of his life? Did his surroundings ever get better? etc. I turned that thinking onto my own life. Have I made something of my life? Have I stepped closer to my potential? Life is full of students and teachers...and I think we all play both roles.

Thanks for the post. :o)

Tabba said...

I do hope Anthony is OK.

I just don't know what else to say to this post. Heartbreaking what kids have to endure....

Mona said...

As phenomenal as you are, I bet Anthony still thinks about you, maybe wondering the same things.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
slouching mom said...

Oh, J.

This was so touching. SO touching.

I too wonder what became of him.

Damn, but I hope he's an artist.

karrie said...

Grunty worked with similar kids in residential programs, and has shared many stories like this one. She did this for quite awhile, and some of the kids came back and thanked her when they got older. I hope Anthony finds you someday.

Queen Karana said...

Oh wow. I'm speechless. I thought perhaps that this was leading to a happy ending - you know, it's been what, 15-17 years since you knew him... I was thinking gosh, maybe he made it through college, maybe he's graduating! (It's that time of year, you know - perhaps what prompted this post?)

And then, nothing...

Gosh, I just hope he's ok, that he 'made it trough.' How wonderful it would be if he DID become an artist.

At any rate, whatever path he followed, one thing is for sure... you had to have been a bright spot in his life, and like others have said, I doubt he has forgotten you.

Patience said...

We wander through our lives and in the journey we touch the lives of countless others, some of whom we are never aware. Others though impact us as much as we possibly have impacted them.

I think we have a responsibility to live our lives in such a way that any influence we might have on others will be positive.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

That rocks.

And, I had a weird moment, on the first day of preschool, when the teacher sternly admonished all us parents that it was our responsibility to send the kids to school with food in their stomach. And that we would be signing a pledge promising to do so.

At first I thought she was joking, but then I realized that is must be such a huge problem they have to make parents promise to FEED THEIR CHILDREN in the morning.

And I sat there thinking, god, what else do they, or don't they do... like the things that Anthony endured.

It's wonderful that you were there for him.

Pendullum said...

So very sad...
I hope Anthony does reach his dream...

Momma Bean said...

Through the course of his troubled life, it's the good stuff that will make him the man that he can become. And you are part of the good stuff. I hope you see him again one day.

Slackermommy said...

Not the ending I was hoping for. I hope his life turns out well. You do good momma.

Jennifer said...

From your first sentence, I knew I would cry when I read this.

I did.

I'm betting he's never stopped thinking of you, either. An adult with a good heart, who listens and cares, means more to a child in Anthony's situation than anything else. You did good.

BARON.VON.TRUBE said...

THE BARON is moved by that wonderful story. Yet it is equally sad as well.

I offer my help to try and locate Anthony. I am adept at finding people. Perhaps I could locate a new address. Who knows what will come of it. But it might be comforting to know. You can E-mail me through the profile on my blog, if you're interested.

THE BARON

Rachel said...

That's such a sweet story. How sad that you lost touch with him.

I worked with "at-risk" kids right after I got out of college, so this post resonated for me. There were a couple of kids that I still remember. I always wondered if what we were doing was enough, and what happened to all of them.

Lisa Milton said...

I am sure it weighs on your heart - I hope he made his way. Thank God he had you to brighten his day, to show him a little hope.

The Queen Mama said...

It's heartbreaking that too many kids are in Anthony's situation. Thank God you touched his life for even that brief amount of time.

Adrienne said...

I hope you find him again, too. Every child deserves whatever he or she needs to make a good start in life, and it frustrates me to no end when that doesn't happen. But you made a difference - if even for one day. You made a difference. And that's awesome.

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

So sad. To see such innocent lives hurt by circumstances beyond their control....

I'm sure he hasn't forgotten you.

Every once in a while, I'll bump into a few of my past students...(My very first batch already graduated college)...And they tell me about things I said or did that never even passed my mind..but meant the world to them...

Hits you "here"...you know.

liv said...

Oh, that post just kicked me in the gut. I still ask myself what happened to one particularly angry little soul who I saw on Sundays up until 1998 in Atlanta. And then, he too, disappeared. And I wonder where on earth that little blonde haired, blue eyed angel who I would have gladly taken home as my own is.

canape said...

I know that kid. Well, at least I know plenty just like him. I ran a music school for children from low-income families for 6 years. Children you thought were going to be okay would often be swept away by the circumstances they couldn't control.

There are so many Anthony's. You touch their lives while you can and then just have to pray for them when they are gone.

Kim said...

reading your post made me remember this poem:

"100 years from now it won't matter what kind of car you drove, the house you lived in, or how much money you had, but the world may be a different place because you were important in the life of a child."
Anonymous


I've remembered it often through my work with children...especially those who have rough lives. I'm sure Anthony remembers your kindness and thinks about you just as you think about him.

BOSSY said...

Can't Bossy and Oh The Joys set out on a nationwide hunt for Anthony? It can be like Thelma and Louise without the divorce and death.

Bossy likes to think that if Anthony had the power to connect with one person he'll be open to connect with more. And through those connections be lifted up and away.

Starrlight said...

I hope you find him too Joy. That was a great story and I want to thank you for sharing that.

Abbynormal said...

You are really such a wonderful person. I want to reach out and touch lives like that.

Much More Than A Mom said...

Aw. You're very sweet. I hope he's a huge success, in spite of the parents he was given.

Jen Magnuson said...

What a neat post. Thanks!

Hol said...

I hope Anthony, and kids just like him find their dream and achieve it. Thanks for sharing this. You made a difference for him, no matter what he does in life.

Misa Gracie said...

Programs like these take such little funding that it amazes me how scarce they really are. People want to feel bad for these kids, but few want to get up early on a Saturday and give up their free time to make a difference.

Kudos to you and your kind heart! I hope this post enspires someone to call their local school to find out how they can help kids in Anthony's shoes.

Like you said, they are craving attention from someone who cares.

Craze said...

What a touching story, I hope your paths do cross again someday.

QT said...

I would wonder too. Great post - you are a good-hearted woman.

Lotta said...

Such a lovely woman you are Joys.

mommiebear2 said...

Wow, this gave me goosebumps. I can totally related to the just "clicking" with certain kids. I worked in daycares for many years when I was younger and although Id never admit it - there were my "favorites". Just that one little boy/girl that just tugged at my heart strings.

wordgirl said...

Maybe art was the safety net that helped him through his rocky life. I can only hope that this is what happened. So many kids with stories just like his...

kgirl said...

He will probably never forget you either.

jen said...

oh yes. so many kids, so much wondering. how they've turned out.

i think in young lives that are especially difficult, the connections with others can mean so much. you left your imprint on him, friend, just as he did on you.

Cece said...

Have I told you lately that I love you?

This post touched my heart. Thanks for sharing.

Augs Casa said...

I also hope that Anthony is well and he contiued his artwork. Good for you and the time you spend with these kids and on Saturdays. Takes a dedicated person to do what you do with a family.

Tessa said...

Joy... You're amazing and I'm willing to bet that because you let him into your heart he is too. I hope, if you decide to look for him, that you find him. Screw that... I hope he finds YOU someday and lets you know you made a difference. :)

Queen Heather said...

That is beautiful & so touching.

Melina said...

Wow, that story brought tears to my eyes. So many lost children, no one to care for them even if they have parents, sometimes those parents just aren't there.

I hope Anthony is okay and I hope you find him, have you tried looking for him? I bet he thinks of you often.

kellypea said...

Lots of memories of lots of Anthonys in my career. Too many Anthonys to count. Lots of them are still with me, but I resist the urge to Google them, afraid that they may not have made it.

How wonderful that you found the time to create such a terrific opportunity for the Saturday School kids.

Yamagoo said...

Not often that a blog post can make me tear up.

I cried.

For all the Anthony's out there...
For all the hungry bellies...
For all the hungry minds...
For all the hungry hearts...
My God these are our children...

I'm still crying.

The Medium Swede said...

I thought perhaps we were going to hear the story of how OTJ helped a young boy from the projects become a man! ;-)

It is truly admirable what you have done. It has inspired me to go out and begin to look for a place to volunteer. Any thoughts?

Flawed & Disorderly said...

All of the "Anthony's" I've taught will stay with me forever.

Luckily one of the girls that I taught in 6th and 7th grade still keeps in touch even though she's in college. She made it to college! YES! Despite the fact that she had an abusive brother that I had to call CPS on, a mom who died a year or so before I met this student, and a dad who died on 9-11 a few years later.

It amazes me what kids can overcome, but I have more sad stories than good ones. I had a student who was failing miserably. She would barely speak. She smelled soooo bad. Her clothes were too small and made her even more of a target to be picked on.

Whenever I'd try to meet with her mother, I'd get excuses that she didn't want to because she'd "have to put on her shoes." They lived in some nasty trailer.

At Christmas I gave the girl a lot of new clothes and accessories. New school supplies, etc. She threw up all over them. That's how nervous it made her. I took off all the tags fearing her mom would return them and take the money. She never came back to school after that. I felt horrible. No one knows what happened to her. I worry that the gifts shamed her mother and made her feel like a charity case.

I don't know...your story of Anthony just reminded me of that.

I'm so depressed today!

Jhianna said...

I hope you find his art on a gallery wall someday.

Lisa said...

My heart breaks for that boy and YOU. I hope you find him someday. And I hope he's ok.

Paige said...

I, too, have a version of Anthony and I wonder what happened to her everyday. Rather than hijack your comments though, I'll post about it sometime soon.

Natalie said...

It is very strange how easy low income families can disappear. Even though I work with an older "at-risk" population 17-24, they vanish all the time too.

chilihead said...

I think I would have cried right then and there. No kidding. I love that you bought the art supplies. I love that those kids showed up for Saturday school.

Ruth Dynamite said...

You never know how your words and example inspired Anthony. I'm sure they did, though. They probably still do.

katy said...

I knew a family with kids like that when I volunteered at my childrens grade school. The problem with this family was different. Childrens services was repeatedly called when the kids talked of physical and sexual abuse. The excuse was always that they couldn't take a childs word for it without anyone seeing the abuse. Neighbors started seeing some things that would make you sick and called childrens services but the family moved on as soon as they figured out someone was on to them. I think of those children often.
If you get the chance go to my site and read the new post and see if you want to join in and show the view from your front door.

amyerj said...

Geez woman, you really can draw in a person. As soon as I got to the part about the connection and the struggles, I jumped back to the top of the post to see the timing (couldn't remember if you'd said 10 years ago??? turns out it was early 90s).

Anyhow, was pretty sure we were heading towards either an inspriring or sad ending... and no, you leave me hanging.

Fine, I guess I can live with it if you can.

Thanks for the ride, and for being such a good egg.

flutter said...

Oh J, you beautiful creature. I hope you find him someday, too. I bet you mean as much to him as he does to you.

The Holmes said...

I was a camp counselor for many summers, I'm totally with you on the clicking/fiercely protective thing. It's an incredible feeling. Thanks for sharing this.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

When I worked in an inner city school, I "adopted" one of the few white families that attended. I will never forget when that mom brought her infant son to school to meet with me. I kid you not when I say that baby looked as though he had been rolled in tar. I lost sleep many a night before I confronted her about a lot of things. ( one of which being the fact that she sent one of her older sons to school with a jolly rancher STUCK to his head for three days in a row). OH the calls to DHR!
She had all the excuses in the world...I had no idea how hard it was to be a mom...no one would help her...no one wanted this baby....blah, blah, blah...to which I responded, " I'll take the baby...if it means he is clean and well taken care of...I'll take him NOW!" In my mind I am contemplating just how I would explain to Mr. Mayhem why I was coming home with an infant...but I loved those kids! You can't help getting involved when an innocent child needs your help.

Needless to say, that was like a slap in the face to her. I went to her house and showed her about cleaning and how you could keep a clean house using little more than ammonia (if you had to)......I still think about those babies...and the day I thought I was adding another to the brood at the Mayhem!

ponygirl said...

Thanks for bringing me back to that time with this post, J. Love you. By the way I can't get into my blog.

Aliki2006 said...

I bet he remembers you; I bet he still thinks back to the way you touched his life.

mamatulip said...

I hope that one day you two reconnect again.

carmachu said...

Wow.

You are one amazing person.

mcewen said...

There are so many unloved children in the world but if you are already a mother, there's always a little bit more to go around.
Best wishes

notfearingchange said...

Children are our most precious resource....It always marvels me that we do not treasure and nurture them

Cathy said...

If he finds just one other person willing to invest in him -- like you -- his work will appear, somewhere, someday, in a place where people marvel at his tenacious spirit.

FENICLE said...

You never know.....chances are you did more for that little boy on a few Saturday mornings, then anyone did for him throughout his entire life.

mel said...

So heartbreaking. I really do hope he is an artist....or any happy ending, actually.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I'm sure he never forgot you, either. I hope he does make it and succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

Lawyer Mama said...

I hope you find him too. And I hope he's an artist.

I loved this post.

Jenifer said...

Wow. Some things never leave this do they, this will stay with you always. I hope you have hope and faith that Anthony is doing what he loves and is in a good place.

Thanks for sharing.

Mimi said...

How sad -- but here again I find you to be not just silly and fun, but with a deep well of kindness, too. What a mystery you are! I will hope for Anthony's artwork as well.

LSM said...

Thank you for inspiring me. Reading your post led me to track down a former student of mine and finally find out a bit about what happened to him after he left my class. I hope that Anthony has turned out just as well. Your post was beautiful.
http://somewhereinthesuburbs.blogspot.com/2007/05/antoine.html

The Sour Kraut said...

Even if you don't ever see him again, I'm sure he remembers your kindness and the positive impact you had on his life.

Emalene - Mummeeeee said...

Such a sad story...but it has really inspired me to get off my butt - there are so many people who need a little caring and attention. Thanks for sharing.

Pattie said...

That breaks my heart. I have a feeling he still thinks about you, too :)

Her Bad Mother said...

I used to do research with kids with substance abuse problems - I still wonder what happened to so many of them.

Cuz I usually only hear the good news, not the bad. So I wonder.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I know that Anthony will never forget you. I hope someone else picked up in your absence...someone else who cares.

Jenny said...

This speaks to me in a way I can't get in to but you're making me all melancholy and sad. But it's good. There's a girl I've tried to find too. I'm afraid to know what may have happened to her.

Lisa Fine Goldstein/Kelly Kelly said...

I hope so too. It is amazing what kids can overcome. That kind of a connection with an adult that he had with you means so much.

Lisa

tulipmom said...

This was beautiful.

I often wonder about some of the students I had who came from difficult situations.

Anthony was lucky to have known you. I hope his life has been blessed with more people like you.

tkkerouac said...

Breaks my heart knowing kids go to school hungry and are bascially raisning themselves, love this talented boys art
its amazing how some poor kids with humble beginnings become famous for what they put their hearts into. Sometimes we put our pain into art.

Mrs. Schmitty said...

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Tag, your it! Stop by my place for details!

KC said...

It's absolutely heartbreaking to me how many children have so many barriers in their lives to happiness, to success. It's the rare child to break out from that environment, no matter how gifted. It's criminal.

blackbeltmama said...

When I taught, there was a student that all the other teachers despired. I thought he was witty and sweet. He was into rap music and brought me his CD. I thought it was fabulous. I used it to pique his interest in poetry and song-writing. When I went back to school the second year, he was gone and I've always wondered about where he ended up and have hoped I'll hear him on the radio one day. Very sad about your student; I hope you hear something good about him someday soon.

Kevin Charnas said...

I hope so too...

I'm telling you, we were separated at birth.

I worked in such a program in inner city Cleveland. We worked with the children after we locked ourselves in the school building (Hello? Fire hazard), while their parents sold crack in the parking lot.

Damselfly said...

Aw. How wonderful that you could be in his life for that short amount of time. You are probably the teacher he will always remember.

Shauna said...

beautiful.