“…a bruised reed He will not break,
a smoldering wick He will not quench…”
“Code White!” rings out. A student attacks a teacher on the second floor.
Racing upstairs to the scene, I take two and three steps at a time.
It is “Bryce” a 5`9″ 350lbs 17 year-old with gang insignia emblazoned all over his hands, arms, and neck.
He throws a desk in my direction upon seeing me barge through the classroom door. Evading it, I hold out my hands in a calming gesture while I slowly gain forward momentum.
Bryce swings a stapler at me in a wild off-balance arc, I dodge it with minimal effort and wrap him in a quick Nelson Hold.
Her parents both died of HIV, one brother “OD`d” and the other is doing Life for gang-related homicide.
She has a voluminous record of her own, and has been in and out of Rehab. I offer her counsel and instruction, and she even finds some glimmer of hope in the Gospel message… but she also asserts that Jesus would “never forgive” her for what she has done.
Today she found out that she has “Hep C” and is pregnant. She is fifteen years old.
Yesterday, he made a perfect score on an Algebra test. Today, unprovoked, he reaches for my neck to strangle me.
I lean into his attack; my hands trace circles in the space that is closing between us. I clasp his arms and fold him into himself, the anger seethes and broils into a white-hot fury. His eyes are wild, small spittle marks the profanity that fills the air.
A single tear trails down a smooth cheek that does not yet know the razor`s edge.
On a bitter gray day, as large flickers of snowfall trail carelessly upon field and forest, a student weeps as he describes to me the pain that he carries. The confusion and torment that is his existence.
He does not know why he was born into the world at all, and asks me why GOD brought him into such misery: “Wouldn`t it have just been better if I was never born?”
A student attacks a classmate in the middle of a crowded hallway. Other students cheer and jeer the confrontation in tribal savagery. Hurtling towards the eye of the storm, I weave through the throng with all the delicacy of a Jove.
Fists aimed for my face and vital organs are left grasping for the wind. I cannot be touched.
While the schoolbuses arrive, a little boy hands me a crude finger-painting he made in Art class. The features are unmistakable, right down to the heavy boots I always wear. Underneath, it is labeled: “Mr. P is strong.”
Even as a Swan finds solace in the reeds, I will bend like a Reed in the wind.