There is a boy in Catrachos that wants this so badly. But I am confident that at some point he will fail. Most likely numerous times. He is addicted to huffing glue. And stumbling and falling is part of the process. But his desire to overcome is so raw and real. I wish I could be a mirror of this desire for when he’s about to give in.
Let me tell you about him. For two years he has been on the fringe of the group of boys that I usually spend time with in San Pedro. He was quiet and disinterested in the gringa that would periodically show up at his traffic roundabout to play cards or be served soda by his fellow window washers. Last summer I found myself sitting next to him on the grass and thought it only polite to strike up a little conversation.
How are you?
Good and bad.
Why good and why bad?
Good because I’m alive. Bad because I’m here.
This led to some time of marveling over the fact that a child with such a wretched life could also value being given another day. And I loved that he recognized that he is not where he should be.
Back in the States, I stumbled upon the website of a home for street kids and, shockingly, his face smiled back at me. How tragic it was to read the bio about the successes he had had in this home long ago for over two years, knowing that the story will end with him being on the street.
He quickly became one of the regulars I spent time with and one day as we chatted I said “Hey! I saw you online! After two years, why did you leave?” His countenance immediately changed. “Because I’m an idiot.” I asked what he meant by that. He scowled at the ground as his eyes filled with tears and then walked away. My mind filled with suspicions of sexual abuse or severe beatings and since I didn’t know him well, decided to let him be.
In January I was able to visit the home and asked about him as soon as there was an opportunity.
“Oh, that is a sad story. He was with us for two years. He was our most successful child. Had a scholarship to a private school. We have incentives that the best behaved child gets 100 Lempiras at the end of the week and he was constantly winning the prize. We found out that instead of washing his clothes, he was throwing them over the fence and buying new outfits with his money as well as movies that he shouldn’t be watching. At the same time, we found out that he had been sneaking into the office at night and stealing money out of the desk. We were disappointed, but he is an adolescent and some of these things are to be expected. We confronted him about it. He was so ashamed and couldn’t get past it. Soon after, he ran away.”
Please note that shame is what brought him back to the street, not a longing for drugs.
The next day, he and I discussed his upcoming opportunity in Catrachos al Cambio and it was evident that he was losing confidence in himself. I told him how, yesterday, I had learned how smart he is and how much hope people had for him. I talked about how capable and intelligent he is to have gotten a scholarship. After staring past me for a bit he said, “I’m no longer that person.” Then leaned his head on my knee and cried. Eventually he talked about how he just can’t stand the possibility that he’ll fail again. He looked around at the ripped and stained clothes drying on the barbed wire fence, empty tubes of glue littering the ground around us and a couple cooking tajadas in a tin can with their three year old a few feet away and said that he’s afraid he’ll leave only to end up back here again. It’s obvious that if he doesn’t go to Catrachos it’s 100% certain that he’ll be in the place that he doesn’t want to be. But this isn’t about logic. Somehow not trying seems better than trying and failing. Again. It’s about shame and discouragement. I told him that we all fail. That the important thing is learning from it. That he may use drugs again, but the hope is that he’ll get stronger and stronger every time. And most importantly, (well, maybe not MOST importantly, but you know what I mean…) even if he ends up back here, I still believe in him, as do Jilli and Lauren.
It is such a lonely battle that these kids fight. Sometimes it’s just as much mental as it is physical. He will mess up again. It may not even be as intense as the desire to get high. It could just be that he gets yelled at for not doing his chores. Or he could get in a fight with another boy. And will he see this as a human error and a mere reminder that he is not perfect? Or will this send him in a spiral of shame and self-doubt? I pray that in these moments our words of encouragement will lend enough strength to stay one more day.