The other day I ran into a woman who looked SO familiar but I could not place her. All of a sudden it dawned on me that she is a parent of a former student. I hadn’t seen her in years yet there we were carrying on a conversation. The encounter brought back memories of that student and how sad and alienated he was. I have no idea what has gone on in his life to make him so unhappy but I remember at that time words that come to mind when I remember him: Emotionally hungry, starving, angry, alienated, unhappy, frustrated, ignored. This student–at the time–disturbed me so much I wrote a poem about him and his need for attention. I didn’t know any other way to process the information.
I discovered that he hasn’t changed and is doing worse. He is older and angrier. His parents tell me they have no idea what to do with him.
Here is what I DO know. The woman is a step-mom. Both step-mom and dad work hard at their family owned business. There is no faith.
I used to see this ALL-THE–TIME working in high schools. Parents divorce and remarry and have children with new partners. Their children from the first relationship are SO lost. The children are emotionally neglected. The divorce rocks their world. And then the remarriage and then the new children.
The memory that disturbs me the most about this kid is one day I was hanging out in the gym and I saw him bouncing a ball. I was just staring off into space, lost in my own thoughts when I realized he was looking at me out of the corner of his eyes and he began to do little tricks with the ball. I really was not in the mood so I turned away and looked elsewhere. He moved so he could be in my line of sight. And he moved closer. And closer. By the time he was done he had inched his way across the gym to be right in front of me. I knew he would sit down. I knew he wanted attention so badly. Sure enough, he sat down and at that point I commented on his skills and what a great job he was doing. We carried on a conversation for the rest of the time. I remember thinking how hungry he was for someone to notice him and how much he needed encouragement. And my theory at the time was that I could notice him, but I was a poor substitute for the people he really needed. He was this little boy trapped in a big body and his neediness made me want to cry for him. I have never forgotten him and I pray for him when he comes to mind.
JUST A GUESS ON MY PART, but I bet our prisons are filled with these types of boys. Hungry men.