Friday Night Lights
Friday night was homecoming weekend. The game of the year of course, and the hype machine was building up the drama, cumulating with a pep rally and lots of fanfare. The players were excited, there was going to be people watching and for a minute they were local celebrities. Even if they werenít playing they all wore their jerseys to class and were recognized as those about to do battle for the glory of the group. Parents would be proud, dinners would be had and celebrating was to be done.
This holds true in most kids but didnít hold true for Jose, one of my students in my English class. Jose was a good kid, he wrote beautiful poetry about low-riding with his father in LA and was a class leader, tutoring other members of the football team and helping out his teacher whenever asked without question. A good kid with a good heart, someone I would have been proud to call my son if my wife and I had a child. This good kid texts me at 11:30 PM on a Friday night asking me if I could come pick him up from the game.
The thing is no one came to watch Jose play. His dad was in LA (supposedly) and his mom was in South America, he has a grandmother (grandfather is not in the picture) but she works third shift. Jose is on his own most of the time when he is not in school. Jose also has a sister who is in 7th grade who came to the game to watch him play. I find this all out when I show up to pick him up. I was ready to go to bed when he called, but I put on some sneakers and answered the call anyway, without hesitation. Iím not sure why until I thought about it later.
On a Friday night of homecoming the kid calls me for a ride. He could have gone out with anyone on the team, he could have went and gotten in trouble or gone to a hotel party or done whatever disturbing things teenagers do these days that we donít want to think about but happen anyway, but he didnít. He called me for a ride. He had to take care of his sister. Iím sure that was part of it but a bigger part of it was he was lonely and just wanted someone to show him some love. He wanted an adult to show him some love. An adult male who reminded him of his fatherÖ
My wife and I took Jose and his sister out for burgers, I told him, ďitís past curfew, so if anyone asks you have to pretend you are my kid or somethingĒ. Jose smiled real big and said, ďyeah, I look just like you anywayĒ. He does. Heís light skinned, Iím a bit darker but paired with my fair skinned Irish wife he looks like he could be my kid. It was the smile that tipped me off. Since Friday night I havenít been able to get it out of my head and it makes me sad. Sad, frustrated and angry.
This kid who anyone would be proud of has no one. No adult male anyway. No one to tell him he is loved, no one to be proud, no one to teach him about being a man or what it takes to be a man. What he does have is opportunity to become whatever he wants, and in most cases young people take that opportunity to become something bad, they get in trouble, they turn to drugs or partying and forget about school and a future and live for the here and now. Instant gratification because itís all they have ever known. Except for Jose, he just wanted someone to love him and on Friday night he chose me. Teenage bravado, (which Jose is full of) is more often than not a mask. As hard as a kid wants to be sometimes, more often than not they want to be loved more.
My name is Sam Wilson. Revolution is the only solution, and sometimes the best agent for that revolution is love.