Monday, September 28, 2009

Tony's Blog: When the heart breaks it creates an opening for others to enter...

...then love is possible. I believe that one cannot love deeply until your heart has been broken. Think about: people with hearts that have been broken come together and through those wounds get to know each other in a way that was not possible before.

Today was such an opportunity for me. As I sat and listened to the judge rule that our young parents will lose the rights to parent their own child my heart tore open with ferocity that threatened to drown out the sobs of Hoolie sitting next to me. You could have driven a truck through that break. I realized that I would need to let that wound stay open so our young father would have a soft place for his heart (already hardening from the decision) to land. My spirit yearned to find a peaceful place to take him, but my soul whispered to get down into the depth of the despair with him. The whisper won out despite the risk that I could get lost down there as well. "My life is over." "That b*%$ took my son away." "I should be the one telling him what is the truth of this world." He wanted to give his child the parenting that he never got. This is not the time to lecture about how he brought this on himself. That is a discussion for a less volatile moment.

He threatens to blow the whole thing up, to throw away all the recent progress and dive back into gang life. I watch him "soldier walk" out of court. The dress shirt first to go, revealing an oversized t-shirt and tattoos still claiming the tribe. Pants allowed to sag and hems tucked into socks. The respectful look of court morphs into the fatal gaze of the street. I know that I gotta act fast. Break the spell he is falling under. What can I do? Act the clown. I rip my shirt off in the same bold gesture revealing my undersized t-shirt, sag my dress slacks, tuck my pants into dress socks and walk with a stupid swagger. (But I cannot imitate the fatal gaze. That is cultivated over years of practice). He is either going to drop kick me off the sidewalk for making fun of him or laugh at this absurd spectacle I had become. He laughs. I jump on the moment. "I'm f'n starving" I say. "had to pick you up so early to get here - no time for breakfast." "Let's go get a big f'n greasy burger." (Leslie had discovered burgers to be the only food he never turned down.) The invitation is accepted. I hike my pants back up to their normal place on my hips, un-tuck pant legs from socks, but keep the t-shirt look (not out of some brilliant strategy to maintain the solidarity we found in laughter. It was just damn hot outside.) Finally, on the drive back I resort to the two most powerful weapons in my arsenal: truth and love. "Mijo," I say with tears rolling down my face. "How would you feel if someday this child that you love so much came to you and said "my life is over. I'm turning myself to the streets to die."

"I couldn't take it." He admits.

"Well that's how I feel now, hearing you say that to me. Please don't break my heart any more. It's already broken too much."

We drive in silence until he asks me to divert to his house so he can change clothes in order to join us at program this evening instead of going back to the hood. I don't try to hide the smile on my face.

The emotional earthquake of the morning would repeat in dozens of aftershocks throughout the day as I am privileged to witness the power of love that can only be delivered by people with the courage to let their hearts be broken. My amazing staff, one by one reinforce the same messages: "You gotta learn to love yourself as much as you love that child." "You are worth it." "It doesn't matter that you have done some stupid things, you are a good person." "You have powerful gifts that you were born to share with this world." We take turns reinforcing the nobility we all see in this young semi-reformed gang banger, reminding him of the beauty we have seen him display and the pride we have in his accomplishments. I remind him of how well he spoke in court, melting the judge's heart so that she modified her ruling on the spot in a way that rarely happens. The young biological parents will be allowed to continue to visit their child (if the adoptive parents agree). This gift of persuasion that he normally keeps hidden works a minor miracle. Will he be willing to bring that gift along, ride shotgun with us and use it to help others make better choices in their lives? The answer comes that night as he quietly singles out the kids he perceives are at risk of falling into "the life", takes them aside and works his gift to keep them from making tragic decisions.

So, with gratitude to Hoolie, Leslie, Jaime, Derry, Sarah, Griselda, Crystal, Monk, Tsilah, Judy and Alex for having the courage to put your hearts in harm's way, I turn to a more difficult task: Finding the funds to save your jobs (so that you can continue to save lives) in a society that doesn't have time to see the enormity of your loving efforts, because everyone is hurting these days. But we will prevail. We must. Our broken hearts will allow nothing less.

InLakesh (you are the other me)




karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on gratitude. It should be very much helpfull

Karim - Mind Power

Tony said...

Thanks Karim,
I am filled with gratitude on a daily basis to have found a life filled with purpose and to be able to do it with the finest, most committed and loving staff.