The Life Of A Writer – Mind your own business (NOT!)
Many years ago, before I ever started my publishing company I told my mom that I wanted to work with the youth in some way. At the time I thought I would open a youth center of sorts, where kids could come after school and take dance classes or vocal lessons and create music. I saw it as a cross between a youth center and a performing arts school.
There are so many kids that don’t have a support system at home or someone to tell them that their dreams are attainable. And sometimes all it takes is one person showing them that anything is possible to change their whole way of thinking.
After releasing Pull Your Pants Up and be a man through my publishing company and doing book signings throughout Chicago, parents at the signings started requesting a companion to the book and my idea for the youth center spawned into the Youth Empowerment Workshop. I’m so grateful to be able to speak with youth all around the country even though its not in the way I originally intended.
Last week however, I had an opportunity to speak one on one with a young man that I probably will NEVER forget in my life.
To make an incredibly long story short, I was at my son’s school and encountered a young man who sincerely touched me. Upon meeting him, he had a bravado that really rubbed me the wrong way. To be frank, he was obnoxious. I’m sure you know the type as you’ve probably encountered one or two of these young men along the way. He was disrespectful of authority, loud and every other word out of his mouth was slang, but beneath all of this I looked into his eyes and saw a young man that was hurting and was acting out because he needed guidance.
As I waited in my son’s school, I watched him…
As a writer, I’ve really taken to observing people’s body language and looking past people’s words and into the core of them.
Something in me told me that I needed to speak to him one on one.
I can’t even tell you how much I tried to shake the nagging feeling and tell myself to just let it go.
Hey, I’d never see him again and as disrespectful as he’d already been, who’s to say he wouldn’t curse me out?!?
But before I knew it, I was asking the administrators would it be okay if I spoke with the young man privately and to my surprise they allowed me to.
When we stepped into the hallway he expressed to me that he was a fifth year senior and that he’d returned to school because getting his high school diploma was important to him. Within minutes, that bravado I mentioned earlier was GONE and he was yes maam and no maam’ing me. As I spoke with him, he gave me a great deal of respect. He looked me directly in my eyes and listened to every word I said to him. The young man that I saw when I first entered the school was gone and before me stood a young man that needed to hear that he was capable, worthy and able to achieve any goal he set his mind to.
I won’t get into the details of our full conversation because it would require this blog post to be much longer that I want it to be, but two minutes into talking to this young man he broke down into tears and hugged me and told me that no one had ever touched him the way that I had. As he was crying the bell rang and students began exiting their classes. This popular kid stood right there in front of his classmates and cried. He stood in the middle of the floor and thanked me for my words. He told me that my taking the time to speak with him meant the world to him and that not even his mother had broken him down like I had. He expressed his appreciation and gratitude for my words repeatedly.
My son even commented how he’d never seen this young man give any adult the amount of respect he’d given me and how surprised he was by his reaction.
This experience taught me so much. I can’t even fully put it into words. Sometimes we go through life and we see children acting out and we label them as bad kids. I know, because I have been guilty of doing exactly this in the past. We have our judgments and we walk right past these kids back to our lives that are “normal” with our own children who are well behaved.
As much as I touched this young man, he touched me in the same way and made me re-learn a lesson I thought I’d already learned – that the surface does not always reveal the true essence of a person.
As we were parting ways, I told him to make me proud and he assured me that he would. While I’m pretty sure I will never see this young man again in life, I feel good in knowing that even though my mind was telling me to mind my business, my heart wouldn’t allow me to and maybe….just maybe I changed the course of this young man’s life.
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Did you mind your own business? Please share in the comment section below.