Calm Waters

Does the world ever cause you to shake your head in dismay? It does me. There are times it seems we fail to remember our humanity in favor, some lower form, some mockery of all forms we have aspired to through the ages of our span here as humans. We are granted only a short time on earth, in the grand scheme of things just a few short decades to make our mark. Yet for so many of us it seems, our time is spent kicking those who most need a hand up or kicking sand over the footprints that might lead to the path out of the darkness rather than reaching out with a light to show the way.

Despite my recent rant, I have been paying attention to something other than my own desires. I have also been thinking about my recent visits to prisons and juvenile centers. For some reason these have been particularly difficult for me this season, especially the juvenile center and the young men I met there. I have been doing the Victim Impact groups for years now, nine to be exact. Some years are harder than others; I change year to year. My emotional response to what happened to me changes and thus the story changes. The facts don’t change, just how I feel about it. This year of course the real change was all my offenders have been released after twenty years, telling this part of the story was new for me.

Three of the groups were new for me also. Smaller groups, more personal somehow more in my face and perhaps me more in theirs. I don’t think I realized the small ball of anger I had in my heart at the release of my offenders. That anger was why I didn’t want to speak this season, I didn’t want to take my anger into that audience, that anger defeated my reason for speaking and defeated me.

41510_prison-gatesThere is always one, in every group there is always one and the first group of this season was no different. One who thinks I should be sorry for demanding they remain in prison despite their age. One who thinks I somehow ‘victimized’ my offenders despite their offenses against me and their lack of remorse. One who thinks I am somehow the one who should be sorry. Yes, there is always one. This time though I wasn’t my usual pragmatic and willing to discuss his point of view self. No, this time I pulled up a chair and faced him down, I explained what they did was unforgiveable and my loss was unrecoverable. I explained his use of the race card didn’t carry weight since their reason was racial hatred, they didn’t get a pass for historical offenses to which I had no part of. I explained their youth didn’t get them a pass since at their age I was an emancipated adult earning my own way, living on the streets and finding a way to survive.

No, they didn’t get a pass. No matter my instinct as a mother, I wept for them and for their lost youth. No matter my instinct as a human being, I wept for their lost opportunity. No, they didn’t get a pass because they felt no remorse for their terrible acts.

Interestingly, his fellows shut him down. Nearly shouted him down after I was done, I have to wonder if their discussions continued after I left.

Kutnews Image

The juvenile group was different though. I still ache for these young men. I look in their faces and know they are not lost yet, know at least some of them can be saved. Some of them are so young, no older than twelve or thirteen. So eager to talk once they realize I am not going to lecture them but instead going to engage them in discussion and open forum. That I will allow for questions and will answer them as honestly as possible. They think I am funny, they realize I don’t hate them and am not scared of them despite what has happened to me. I tell them, I was once just like them a juvenile delinquent someone the courts held no hope for. When I tell them this, at first they don’t believe me then a light shines in their eyes and they begin to open up.

There was one this time, at first he made clear he didn’t want to be there. He sat with arms crossed in front of him and glared. He was a leader, it was clear. He thought he was all that and so did all the young men around him. If these young men were going to learn anything he was going to have to be won over, he was my target. He was so smart, so full of life and so lost. I won him within ten minutes just by talking to him.

I made him laugh. He asked me if I was afraid of him, if I was afraid of black men, or young black men. I asked him why I would be. He explained to me, because young black men had shot me. Well of course, that makes sense I said. I asked him should I be afraid of all teenagers. He asked why I would be afraid of all teenagers. I explained teenagers shot me, that made as much sense. He stared at me for a few seconds and started laughing, told me that was stupid and I said so was his premise. He asked what a premise was, I explained it to him. From then on the entire group talked, asked questions.

His friend made me want to cry. When we talked about how to change directions, who they had to apologize to and how to start on a new path one of the key components to success was family. Support structures, their need to be strong support for their younger siblings and begin to show their families positive changes to build trust. His friend quietly asked, “What if you don’t have a family?”

Some of these young men don’t have families to return to. It is why they are there, in ‘jail’. They have nowhere to go, no place to call home. This is it. Home is a place with bars on the windows, shackles on their ankles and a future that is bleak, at best.

I left that day feeling glad I hadn’t begged off despite not wanting to be there. I was reminded why I do Victim Impact, touching one life it is worth it. It has taken me a few weeks to write about this season, it was a hard one. I can’t say I don’t know why, I do. Each season is different, this one was hard but taught me lessons I needed to learn. Lessons about anger and letting go, lessons about humility.

Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained you shall live. Marcus Aurelius

Comments

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Wow Valentine, I forgot that you do this. You are precious.

    Truly 12 or 13 years old? What happened, what happened…. It is tragic they’re in such a place. It just doesn’t seem right.

    You do valuable work visiting these people. Nine years. Wow.

    • It is tragic, yet sometimes it is the only outcome that is viable. Some of these young people are truly violent, truly dangerous. The only hope is to put them where they can do no harm and then we hope we can touch them.

      Thanks for reading, maybe if enough of consider what we are doing we can change the outcomes.

    • It is tragic, yet sometimes it is the only outcome that is viable. Some of these young people are truly violent, truly dangerous. The only hope is to put them where they can do no harm and then we hope we can touch them.

      Thanks for reading, maybe if enough of consider what we are doing we can change the outcomes.

    • It is tragic, yet sometimes it is the only outcome that is viable. Some of these young people are truly violent, truly dangerous. The only hope is to put them where they can do no harm and then we hope we can touch them.

      Thanks for reading, maybe if enough of consider what we are doing we can change the outcomes.

  2. I just love you.
    xxx

  3. This is wonderful how you endeavor to provide positive-ness to a group of individuals in which society casts off.

    • It is sometimes wonderful, like that discussion. Sometimes hard, like the recognition that some of these young people truly are cast away from society.

  4. God bless you, Val, for trying to make a difference in the lives of young men who otherwise have no other decent chance in life. I honestly don’t see how you made it through all that mess, but I’m so glad you did!

    • Sometimes you know, I think I do it because I want to touch their hearts and minds. Other times, I think it is selfish and I do it for me. This season, well I think there was a greater part of the selfish, I think I needed it for me.

  5. I wish I had the words to tell you how valuable this work is for all of us. But anything I can think to say seems inadequate. So just . . . thank you.

  6. It is hard when you see a little spark in these kids. If circumstames were different for them so too their future.

    • It is that spark that makes me come back though Loon. That spark convinces me it is possible, to touch a life and give hope.

      • I couldn’t help think of this article after seeing the image of the woman in England who spoke to the two meat clever weilding men to try and calmed them down. I think she saw that spark too. Despite the despicable horror they had just inflicted , she was able to get through to them.

        • I would never put the two together, perhaps. I think instead Loon, she was just a great hero who was hoping to distract and maybe save other lives. This was such a terrible tragedy.

  7. I apologize that I was only able to read the first part of the post before I had to stop, due to some issues that are still too sensitive to me. I send you a hug for the work you do with victims. I am glad I have found you in the huge blogging world.

    • You know Christy I don’t primarily with victims but behind the walls of prisons with offenders instead. My call was to teach those who do harm about empathy and compassion, to try to stop them from harming the next time. To show them a different path, a different way.

      I am so sorry this is so hard for you, I know the triggers can be tough and can take sometimes years to heal. My arms wrap around you and light your way.

  8. I was expecting, “What if you don’t have a family?” I wanted to cry. This is why you do it, isn’t it, Valentine. Because there are some who CAN be saved. You are a caring human, even after all you’ve endured, and your heart is large.

    • It is why I do it, even when I think I can’t. Even when my little ball of anger is burning, somehow I still feel like I need to. There is something there, it tells me my words just might touch someone, might make a difference and that my friend is enough.

  9. I have only been following you for a short time Val. It seems I was missing something. Maybe you had posted something earlier that I missed. About an experience that you had. If so I would like to read it .

    I did not realize you had such a hard job. I enjoyed reading this, it was clear that it could not have been easy to write. Thanks Val. You are Wonder Woman.

    • Tom, Hi – you can read the story here: https://valentinelogar.com/2011/12/11/231/
      this is the first story in the Crime and Punishment archive. Always read from the bottom up.

      Other parts of the story are posted in the Series: Victim Impact.

      It isn’t a job, it is just part of what I do as a volunteer. If you can’t make lemonade, well you should just become a shut in. I don’t want to be a shut in.

      • Val
        Thank you so much for the link.

        I did not know that you did this as a volunteer. I think it is nice that there are people in this world who care enough to do things that otherwise would never happen. I am so proud to be counted among your friends. You are a an amazing lady.

        But wait there’s more, The Name Valentine Logar has been added to the Tom Nardone Wall of heroes. You have earned your place up there with the likes of Nikola Tesla, Ronnie James Dio, and my father Tom Nardone Sr.

  10. I thinking about you facing the group … a group that you don’t know, yet you see the hopes in their faces for turnaround … but one of the tough parts has got to be not knowing who will make the turn.

    • With the adults and the young people, with both of them there is hope. I think of them and I hope. I suspect they hope as well. Sometimes I know with the adults, I know by their questions some of them will make it if given even a small opening they will make it. I think to myself, we should also be willing to open some doors for them to be successful. We should also be willing to see beyond their mistakes to who they can be.

      With the young people, there is so much there if only we could give them a foundation. If only their only home didn’t have bars on the windows, violence outside of their front doors, hunger at their dinner tables. I am despondent sometimes Frank. I wish there was more I could do, more I could say.

      • Val,
        First of all, a tip of the cap to your efforts. It’s a worthy, but difficult challenge, and one that you are willing to try!

        Agree … some need someone to open to door … yet as you know, one must also be willing to sincerely walk through that door …. but all that is a tough challenge requiring many efforts.

        Also, thanks for the time for your answer … after all, I learned too!

  11. What an amazing story, Val. And your heart is so big and so strong that I am continually amazed and impressed by you.

    • Sometimes not so strong Elyse, sometimes it barely beats. This was one of those believe me. That little burning ember of “pissed off” was still there and I had a hard time getting through it this time. I don’t like that in me, I don’t like that pissed off in me at all. It was good I did this, good I walked through that fire this time. But damned if it didn’t burn a bit hotter than normal.

      • You’ve got to let yourself be human, Val. You know that, don’t you. You have taken a horrible injustice and helped people. Give yourself a break.

  12. This is another amazing post Val . You are so brave to do this, and thank you so much for sharing with us. Somehow it makes me more human to know what you have said, and what these young people have said and how they responded. Why it should be such a gift I don’t know. but it’s as if we are participants too, and not walking by on the other side, just by reading your profound story.
    The fact that you did it, whatever your frame of mind, means it was perfect, you were in the right place at the right time. Blessings to you

    • I had such a difficult time this season Valerie, yet at the end I was glad I was there. I don’t usually feel as if I am girding my loins, walking into the lions den this time I did. Yet still at the end, I was glad I did. This time I felt I learned something too. This time I felt gladdened and lifted up. Thank you for being part of the journey.

  13. Always something to think about and process on your page.

  14. I love that you keep doing this no matter how hard it is for (or on) you. Yours is an amazing light. Love you.

  15. How strong you are to face these men and speak your mind, not allowing them to intimidate you. You made a good point asking whether you should be afraid of all teenagers.

    • It was an important lesson for them. There were 17 teenage boys in the room. It was a mixed group; Black, Hispanic, White. They were sitting very much within their racial groups, it was very easy for me to walk into each group and sit down and ask the question;

      Should I be more afraid now?

      When I then told them my husband was Black, after explaining about hate and feeding hate. They all sat in stunned silence. We talked a great deal about assumptions. What they assumed about me and what was assumed about them. This was after the discussion of why I should hate teenagers.

  16. I’m proud of you Val – pardon me if I don’t say more.

    Peace, Eric

  17. p.s. Don’t be mad at me. I know you and you need to take care of yourself.

    • Not mad at all, you are right. I likely should have taken this season off, I didn’t. I don’t regret it now but still should have likely not done it so close to release dates. I wasn’t ready for my reactions. I hadn’t sorted out my feelings. I hadn’t taken care of myself, on many levels.

  18. I think you are letting them win because you . . . fill in the blank.

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