He swaggered down the sidewalk, with two giggling girls on each side of him, as he screamed out obscenities. “Blank the weather! Blank the rain! Blank, blank, blank!” All the while looking at Josh and me out of the corner of his eye, watching our faces, thinking he’s funny, loving the attention, hoping for a reaction. This boy/man with soft whiskers on his face and scruffy blonde hair and low rider jeans; a burning cigarette dangling between two finger on the hand that was casually thrown over the shoulder of the girl on his right; oblivious to the emotions or needs or pain of others. Self-absorbed and self-focused, not really caring about anyone or anything, I sensed his apathy.
I reacted, wrongly, of course, asking him to please watch his mouth around my son. My mind flew over all Josh has been through, his life, his pain and damaged body. I thought of his courage and strength of character. I admit, I was angry with this boy/man and my words and tone betrayed the rage. Of course, the response I got back was full of venom with more obscenities directed at me. What else was I expecting?
His image and our interaction haunted me through out the day and on into the next. My heart actually hurt for this boy/man, who obviously hid under an outward appearance of bravado laced with the words he thought gave him power and meaning. A rebel, full of self hatred, and disdain for the world, what had he seen? What had been done to him? Were there any adults who cared about his life? Had he experienced unconditional love?
I began to create a new scenario in my mind, of me quietly walking towards him, asking him how he was, about his day, and who he was. I could see myself driving him to the hospital, all the while telling about my son, Joshua. We would enter the pediatric oncology floor and like the ghost of Christmas present tour unseen from room to room. I’d know each child’s name and how old they were, giving a simple description of the type of cancer they fought. He’d see their sad, hollow eyes peeking out of pale faces and hairless heads. Some would be sleeping the exhausted chemo sleep. Some would be in pain and crying. Others would be smiling from skin and bone bodies with feeding tubes taped to their faces as they played a board game with an adult. The stories would unfold. And all the while, as the boy/man and I observed the pediatric oncology floor of the children’s hospital, I’d watch his face out of the corner of my eye, hoping to see the bravado melt away, the self-absorption dissolving into the realization of another’s pain. The apathy growing into caring with the sudden knowledge of action and purpose energizing his body and soul. The knowing deep in his being would become real; he could make a difference in this world, no longer hiding behind his hidden hurts.
And I’d smile knowing this young boy/man had become, in that instance, a man…
If you were unable to watch Extreme Home Makerover about Boey in Corvalis, OR, please go to
http://dynamic.abc.go.com/streaming/landing and then click on "launch the player"
She will melt your heart...