Shirtless boys; or “young men,” as they surely prefer to be called, ball for hours on end. They jump higher. They execute crossovers, no-look passes and threes like, if not better than Durant, Lebron, D.Wade or even the great Michael Jordan. They are free in these moments. They openly express their inner little boy, while at the same time commanding the respect of kings and princes of the court—especially when they know someone’s watching. And there is no pressure that they can not withstand.
Young ladies, in that transitional place, where they are too old and have seen and experienced too much to be little girls, and yet too young to be women, make their way through the days working out arrangements for getting their hair and nails done; and if there’s money, maybe a trip to the store to catch a sale. Sometimes if they have a child or two, their babies will be in tow; or maybe Grandma is holdin’ that part of life down. Whatever their experience, these young ladies put on their best hair, some daisy dukes, a halter top and move through the day as gracefully as they know how, sometimes, stopping by the basketball court.
And then, the boys tire of the game; the girls grow bored with superficial chats/”girl talk;” and like the human beings they are wired to be, they find one another. They hang, they smoke some weed, and they allow themselves to reach for the release, the beauty of closeness, some measure of emotion—love, that they assume they can only access through sex with a partner that they may or may not actually care for, or even be attracted to. They’re not sure because they have so little to compare this version of their intimacy to. They have not yet traveled; not yet tapped into their own dreams of becoming…; they have not yet reasoned that they were placed here with the power of the Creator to create as He did.
Upon close examination any onlooker can see and surmise that they are making the very best of what they are accessing at this point in their young lives. Quite astonishingly, and to their credit, some of these youngsters have found the very safety valves and outlets that will keep them alive, in-spite of socio-economic odds designed to doom them to certain despair. Moreover, they have found those characteristics in one another that they can depend on as they negotiate the terrains of joblessness and very few, if any, productive, diverse or alternative ways to spend the day.
If it is not clear at this point that this is a statement that attempts to describe some conditions of some of the young people in DC and other urban areas who don’t have immediate access to internships at daddy’s firm, or summer camp at Lake Kumbaya—To be sure, these are the children, teens and young adults who we read about when we look a studies and newspaper articles that tell us that: “The homicide rate for black males is almost ten times the rate of Caucasian males, within the twelve to twenty-four year old age group;” that, “Roughly one out of every 100 young people ages 13 to 24 in the District is HIV infected or has full-blown AIDS;” and/or that, “Teens in abusive relationships are at significantly higher risk for unintended pregnancies, poor pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections-including HIV.
Many of us, no matter our age, race or socio-economic status, have heard and believe in the adage, “the idol mind is the devil’s playground.” But still, we leave many of our children and young adults languishing, dying slow deaths by hopelessness, learned helplessness and mediocrity. Those among us who have been Blessed with more than ample good fortune all too often whip out self-fulfilling prophecies that provide public license for them to justifiably walk away from the “kid” who is just too unruly and too lazy to help.
What we don’t consider is that these are the adults of tomorrow and their children are the adults of the generation to follow and so on. And so we are all a party to creating the cycle of pain that our children must endure. As a result, they prove to be an absolute reflection of an uncaring that plagues our nation and social proof that there is a darker side to our collective nature. But they also present, simply by their being, an opportunity for us to appeal to the better angels of our true selves for the wisdom and kindness—that so many of us have buried beneath the rubble of arrogance and materialism—that we need to move more deliberately toward helping, ensuring that our young people are made whole and have every opportunity to be the very best they can be.
In the absence of light, there is darkness, but that is in fact, the only way that darkness exists. It is apparent then that all we need to do to take better care of our children is to teach them how to tap into their brightness and give them the tools, love and support they’ll need to fully engage in and enjoy their lives and all the beauty the Creator has placed here for them. In this scenario darkness fades into the light and happiness trumps the sadness and fear that has gripped and driven too many of our young people.
It will be tragic if we allow another summer to pass in which our children are simply left to their own devices. Left alone with little to do, with little mental or emotional stimulation, it’s likely that our children and young people will fall prey to what some choose to call “summer fun.” It’s equally likely that we as a society will suffer the consequences of decisions they make in the heat of summer for many seasons to come—and rightly so, because working together, with the intent of saving our children, we could do just that. However, if we continue to choose not to, then the children have no choice but blame us and continue to exist in their perpetual, somehow never ending summer.