Why you should never give up on troubled youth
David Hiel and Sally Mahmoud collaborate on a story about Osiris, a computer training program founded by Bill Roddy and his wife. The couple gave up six-figure incomes to introduce at-risk teenagers, many of whom were in juvenile jails, to the world of computers -- and possibly a new lease on life
You may wonder why, at 38 years old, I am so passionate about youth issues. Let me tell you why…
When I was young, many people who claimed to be helping me, lied to me, abused me, marginalized me, and wrote me off as another statistic. I don’t claim to be special or unique in any way, I am one of millions.
I did not expect to live past 18. I lived through events that should have killed me. The fact that I am here writing this – alive and free – is a miracle. Some of my friends didn’t make it. And some that did are the walking wounded. Ghosts of what could have been.
I owe my life to a couple of inexplicable events and to those few people – and there were very few of them – who accepted me as I was.
As my mind’s eye gazes into the reflection of my past, I clearly see that every moment of every day is a priceless gift.
But the most valuable thing I’ve learned along the way is that there is only one cure for what is wrong with people and the cure is unconditional love and acceptance. It starts with unconditionally loving and accepting yourself as you are right now.
Sound hokey? Cliché? Is unconditional love and acceptance a tall order? Yes, but it’s worth the effort.
Most of these troubled kids act the way they do because they hate themselves and deny what they really are (loving creative beings). They build hard shells around themselves and see love and acceptance as a weakness. And the longer they go without it the thicker the shell becomes. But love is the shell’s kryptonite. It can melt the shell from the inside or the outside.
One of the adults who accepted me unconditionally was a high school English teacher who was instrumental in setting up an alternative education program for troubled kids. He recently told me, “You never write off a kid, never, ever. They are human beings full of untold potential. There are no bad kids.” I agree that there are no bad kids, only kids that haven’t received enough love. There are no disposable teens.
But still, far too many people are horribly damaged when they are young and vulnerable, which is one reason why you see me lambasting public education, not because they are bad people, but because the institution has no compassion. No massive government monopoly does. It can’t. Think about it.
I promised myself a long time ago, that I would never forget. While it is painful, my understanding of those times is too valuable to discard. However, I do not consider myself a victim. I take full responsibility for my decisions both past and present. I am grateful for the opportunity to overcome my poor choices and to be alive to tell the story.
To find solutions we need to think about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. We need to be creative and let go of our insane denial and our desperate clinging. In America we seem to think we can solve every problem with another war. A war on drugs, a war on crime, a war on poverty, a war on terror.
What we need are fewer fucking wars.
Can you feel the heat in here? I’ll stop my rant and leave you with something positive.
Bill and Gail Roddy are people who are making a difference. They quit their corporate jobs and formed Osiris Organization, a non-profit dedicated to helping troubled kids learn technology and entrepreneurship. Bill Roddy was the St. Thomas Humanitarian of the Year for 2006.
Alex Shalman was kind enough to ask me to write about the top causes that make my palms sweat, my heart bleed, and sends tears rolling down my cheeks as part of the Caring, Compassion, and Charity project. Well now you know…
What are the top causes that make your palms sweat, your heart bleed, and sends tears rolling down your cheeks?
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