Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The cycle of violence

On a less cute note than kittens and such, I got some sad news yesterday. Gordon and I have volunteered twice as a "Big Couple" for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. We had a little brother back east, and another in BC. Both boys were great people, very different from each other, but good kids who enhanced our lives. One of the saddest things for me about leaving Nova Scotia was leaving our little brother (I'll call him "LB" rather than divulge his name.) While we have kept in touch with our little brother from British Columbia, our other little brother, "LB", lost touch with us in the past couple of years, despite our efforts to keep up the communication. (I think part of that was just him becoming a teenager and turning more towards his friends and so on.) Still, I made a point of giving him all our new address info, should he ever decide to reach out (which we would welcome.) We've left that up to him.

Anyway, when we left NS, "LB" was 11 and very into skateboarding. Before we left, we bought him a new skateboard and gear, and encouraged him to pursue his passion. We were hopeful that if he had one thing he truly loved, maybe it would save him from getting into trouble. He lives in a bad, bad neighbourhood with a lot of negative influences. His father has essentially abandoned him, and his mother, while doing her best, has some serious issues of her own.

Afer our move, we did keep in touch for a while, and even flew him out to BC for a week's visit, which we very much enjoyed. We took him to a few Vancouver skateboard shops while he was out with us, and had a pro skater dude talk to him. It was nice to see LB being a kid and enjoying himself.

But by the time LB turned 14 (the last time we spoke with him and his Mom), he had turned to drugs and was running around with a bad crowd and getting in trouble with the police. His Mom was throwing up her hands in despair, not knowing how to control him. We feared for LB and his future, but fervently hoped this was a phase he would pass through relatively unscathed. Underneath it all, LB's a very intelligent, funny kid, who is kind and gentle with younger kids and animals. We had a lot of fun together, and he used to call Gordon "Geezer" as an affectionate nickname. He is one of those kids whose life could have been so different, had he only had a safe place to grow up in, and a stable home environment. (But I haven't given up on him yet!) He has so much untapped potential.

But LB also has a lot of anger towards the world (not that I can blame him, given what he has been through.) He has a strong and dangerous desire to "belong." Despite the fact that he has what it takes to be a leader and an individualwho inspires others, he has instead become a follower who is desperate to be cool and fit in. And in some part, I think he has to do this to survive, given were he lives.

Still, the worst I expected was that he might end up with a criminal record if he didn't sort himself out before turning 17 (the age at which you are no longer a young offender in Canada, and are then treated as an adult in the courts.) What I didn't expect was what I found out yesterday: LB, who is now 16, was shot twice a few months back, late at night on a sports field. He came within a hair's breadth of bleeding to death out there in the dark. I wonder if, as a teenage boy who thinks himself invincible, he can even now appreciate how close he came dying?

Miraculously he survived, but likely only because of two quick-thinking policemen who knew what to do when they found him with a severed femoral artery (and another gunshot wound in the back.) One officer had recently returned from reservist duty in Afghanistan and knew how to treat an injury like that. These two officers have received awards for saving LB's life.

I am still piecing together details and have not yet spoken with LB or his Mom, but from the sounds of it, it seems like gangs are involved and likely drugs. LB was shot from behind and was apparenty unarmed.

He recently appeared in court because of youth charges related to another matter, and at that time was walking with a cane. I'm just glad he's walking; he could so easily have been paralyzed, not to mention killed.

So spare a thought for LB, if you will. Gordon and I hope that this whole incident will shake some sense into him, but who knows? While I'm sure a lot of people have written him off, (he is, after all, "known to police") when I think of LB, I think of his kind heart, his sense of humour, his gentle affection, and his quiet courage, which has helped him survive a thus-far very difficult childhood.

I remember him walking our dogs, playing with our cats, and his sadness when our old dog Chelsea died. I remember the fun he had tobogganing with us in winter, flying down the length of our sloped property right onto the beach below. I remember the little presents he gave us, the drawings he did for us, him making pancakes with Gordon,the three of us playing hide and seek. I remember his substitute teacher, who coincidentally was a friend of ours, telling us of how LB (who never really told us how he felt about us) would write glowingly about us for his school assignments. I remember the smile on his face when we took him to the skateboard park near our home in BC. All these little things give him hope that we had a positive effect on his life, and that it's not too late for him to turn things around. Right now, I'm just grateful he's alive. Later, I think I'll write him another letter and tell him what he means to us.

9 comments:

  1. I'm sure it will mean so much to him to receive a letter from you guys showing him how much he's appreciated and loved. Sad to hear he was shot, but glad to hear he survived. Hopefully a nice wake up call. Good luck and keep us informed.

    ~ Wolf Lover Girl

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  2. As a teacher I've seen so many kids with so much potential make poor choices. It is very sad. Hopefully he will have learned a hard lesson and turn things around.

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  3. Knatolee - I hope surviving the shooting proves to be a turning point for LB. I think sending him a letter is a great idea. What wonderful people you and your husband are to reach out.

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  4. Anonymous9:49 am

    this just makes me want to cry. :(

    A letter to him sounds like a GREAT idea. People need ot know that they are loved and cared about.

    I hope his life turns around.

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  5. I am so sorry to hear about LB. I hope that this will be a wake up call for him and he will get his life back on the right track.

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  6. Wow. Thank you for sharing this story. I've always thought that I'd like to be a big sister or foster parent or something of that nature. This post just reaffirms that desire in me.

    Great post.

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  7. I would encourage anyone to become a Big Brother or Big Sister (or Big Couple!) They also have in-school mentoring programs and "Big Bunch" activities for people with less time to volunteer (although we never found three hours a week very time-consuming.) Big Brothers in particular are desperately needed, as they never seem to have enough men volunteering.

    And you get back way more than you put in! And since we don't have kids, it was a perfect excuse to do thing like toboggan, play hide-and-seek, go Go-Karting, go fishing, insert kid activity here. :)

    "LB" is a special kid and I know he can get past this if he decides to. I have high hopes for him surviving his adolescence. I wish we could do more for him.

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  8. Oh I hope that this will be just what he needed to jerk himself out of the life he was falling into. He sounds as if he has a lot of untapped potential. I think the letter is a great idea. I know it would mean a lot to him to hear from ya'll.

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  9. This is so sad. But one thing that research shows is that just having one person who really cares about them can be the factor in turning a troubled kid's life for the better.

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Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!