God I loved this man, this dear friend of mine with the heart of gold and as big as Texas. He wants to help. He sees the kids on the street near where he teaches. He worries about them. He worries about his own children and his students. He sees and therefore wants to do something about it.
It was one of those times when I had to be the ‘bad guy” and quickly diffuse someone’s enthusiasm and basically beat it to death.
One does not just walk up to a gang member and have a pleasant conversation.
“Let’s reach out to them, help them and get them off the streets,” he said. He looked at me as if I was dumb, deaf, and blind.
“No, don’t do that. They’ll get hurt. You could get hurt,” I said. I kept shaking my head back and forth to make it very clear that this was a bad idea. An extremely bad idea.
“But you know how to do it! We can just talk to them…”
“No, we can’t! Sweetie, do you remember reading about the civil rights movement?” He was much younger than me and would not have been around in the 60’s.
“Yes, of course…”
“Well, way back when, if a white person showed any kindness, friendship, or respect to a black person, the KKK would retaliate against the black person. That’s one of the reasons the whole situation was so fragile. It took time and effort to just get it to the point where that wasn’t going to happen. Good-hearted people caused pain and suffering to others without understanding how it all worked.
But people are the same. If you start talking to a gang member, he’ll HAVE to walk away from you. Even then, you’ll cause him nothing but problems and he’ll always be under suspicion.”
He thought about this for a moment. I watched as I burst his bubble. I leaned over and hugged him.
“You can’t pull a kid from a gang. They’ll kill him,” I said and squeezed his hand.
“Then what do we do?”
“Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Let me ask you this: if you were in business and wanted to put your competition out of business, what would you do?”
He thought about this for a moment. He threw out a few ideas and I shook my head.
“No, never talk badly about your competitor. It can actually drive people to them. All you do is cut their recruit lines. Catch them before they join.”
So off he went to talk to the anti-gang task force. Armed with materials, he was ready to tackle the problem.
“Suz, can I call you if I need help?”
“Of course. Now go out and conquer!”
He will and he will run head first into walls and call. I’ll pick him up and point him back in the right direction and wait to do it again.
He thinks people want crime to end. He believes that this is what our politicians want. He doesn’t understand that crime is good business for the vested interests.
I believe in letting people learn their own lessons and own their own truth.
God love us people of good will. We rock, quietly and silently as we go about our business. Most of us make it out alive.