When Criminals Protected Me…..Deep Seated Memories

When Criminals Protected Me….. I was in my twenties, working on my Master’s Degree. Teaching relaxation techniques and imagery skills to criminals living in a halfway house was volunteer work I felt purpose in doing, as well as baking for them. I took a half-time Director position at that time with Teen Outreach. It was situated in a church basement with alley access that serviced youth who were high risk. No one ever stayed more than 2 weeks in that job. The teens had a reputation of getting rid of anyone in two weeks or less, leaving the Board of Directors at their wits end. I was offered the job and committed to stay for one year regardless of anything. That was met with raised eyebrows as though I was too naive to understand what I was getting into.

The first evening on duty the teens threw glass coca cola bottles at my head as I rode my bicycle to work. The second night my bicycle got a surprise flat tire. Name calling was the very least of offenses. Threats decorated with extreme profanity became normal. Each time something occurred, I responded with one sentence. “I am staying for one year.” It threatened their 2 week record. They tried everything in the book to make me want to quit. One evening they were certain I would walk away.

Resources in the church basement were humble. There was one bathroom with a thick wooden door and a double lock on the interior side of the bathroom door. Getting close to the two week deadline, the desperate teens managed to crash open that double locked door when I was peeing. Their royal HEAVE HO included heavier boys and some girls. They literally caught me with my pants down! They were quite smitten with their efforts, feeling very confident they would never see me again. But I pulled up my pants, flushed, and walked out of the bathroom to see them all laughing, standing together in anticipation of my anger and withdrawal.

I scanned the crowd looking at each one of them with direct eye contact as I slowly and deliberately stated in a calm but firm voice, “I AM STAYING FOR ONE YEAR!!!” Oh my….you should have seen their faces drop from happy-go-lucky to shocking disappointment. What they had done to me in that bathroom was worse than any acts they had performed on any other directors in the past. And it didn’t work. It was after that night’s trauma when the criminals I was doing volunteer work with decided to start escorting me to work every night and returning to walk me home after work.
It was quite the scene when they began protecting me because they were all from that same geographic area and the teens knew who they were. What really struck my funny bone was that the at-risk youth were acting like wanna-be criminals but they were no match for the real deal…..the criminals who became my protectors!

I was not only committed, I really cared for those troubled youth. I knew they had deep seated problems as well as needs to feel cared for. It was a turning point that brought openness and communication on their part once they realized I really was staying for one year. And the majority of them quit messing with trying to harm me once my criminal protectors became my escorts. Such an ironic circumstance! And, yes, I did stay for one year and they begged me to stay longer when I had to quit because I received a graduate assistantship. I did not have enough time to continue with the Director position of Teen Outreach. I missed them a great deal. So much learning took place on my part and I remain grateful for that opportunity. And the fact that criminals protected me from wanna-be criminals still tickles me to no end. What irony! And what rich threads in the fabric of my life as I age and reflect on what has held the greatest meaning for me in seeing who I am and who I can continue to be. Weaving special memories into my awesome aging cloak satisfies and nourishes. #lovinlifeisgreat@68

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