Monday, April 18, 2011

"With My Victim in the Room"

Too much clothing for a warm day, hiding tattoos that mark his claim to a few blocks in South Central Los Angeles. Fresh out of juvenile hall for activities dictated by his gang, the young man who appears older than his years, has been sitting sullenly but attentively in the corner of the room at our annual retreat in the Big Bear Mountains. He is watching, listening for a sign that acceptance into a healthy community that has eluded him all his life might finally be forthcoming.

I recite the Half Boy Story that I learned from Michael Meade.  Something in that telling stands him up and his own story must be revealed. He is shaking and his voice quivers.

“You tell that story and you tell my life” he says.

He recounts the beatings at an angry father’s hands. He peals back the sleeves of his coat to reveal the green of inked tattoos mingled with the black scars of cigarette burns from a father’s sadism. He recounts how he sought refuge in the streets only to find more violence and confusion.

“I became a monster” he proclaims.

He pleads with the other boys in the room not to follow his ways, not to get caught up in gang-banging.

“You think you are going to get protection from your homies, but what you get is a target on your back.”

Finally he says: “I never thought I would find this kind of place. I never thought I would find men that would welcome me and show me love and acceptance like this…and I never thought I would be telling my story with one of my victims in the same room.”

He can’t get himself to make eye contact. So, the young man, identified as the victim, stands up and walks across the room. They embrace. The tears flow. 

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

We stopped a gang that day.  Help us keep this experience alive for youth who need us.  Donate to our annual campaign.  Click here. Even a little helps alot.


Tony LoRe, CEO/Founder

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