It was another long day of working for my mentor; I appreciated the job and tried to do a good job, finishing the cleanup so I could catch the one o:clock AM bus ride home. I drug myself up to the bus stop for my fifteen minute wait, and leaned in the crevice of the adjacent store, to rest against the wall and have a smoke. Just as I lit up a cigarette a young white 16 year old boy, scampered in my direction with a look of stark terror on his face, sliding behind me and grabbing onto my back for dear life. All of a sudden we were joined by a young gang of ten hostile street punks, different sizes and races led by one sixteen year old Asian, who signaled the menacing gang to block our exit by executing a half moon formation.
“Help me, please help me!” the terrified young boy behind me begged.
I flipped my cigarette at their feet and surveyed the ring leader and his band, remarking to myself silently, “I’m gonna miss my bus.”, then regaining my concentration and remembering my training that young opponents can still be dangerous. The leader must have read my mind, he brazenly challenged as he looked at his crew,
“You can’t take us all !”
“I don’t need to take you all, but you will be the first.”
The young leader responded by posturing in a Kung Fu stance, with the others attentive and waiting for his next move, and I just looked him up and down and laughed.
“I don’t know where you trained, but your feet are too close together, and you’re all off balance”, I shouted at the startled lad.
“Is this what your Sifu (Master) taught you, to pick on weaklings?”, “I’m sure I can find out who he is and have a talk with him.”, I further mocked.
“Let’s get this over with, you’re gonna make me miss my bus, so if you don’t take off right away I’m going to make you All pay!”, I threatened the group as I moved forward and gently pushed their young target closer to the wall.
As I moved forward the group retreated backwards, alternately staring at me and then seeking direction from their leader, who initially moved into an attack stance and then backed away in a sign of submission.
“It’s not over!”, I shouted to everyone, “ If I ever hear of you attacking this kid or any other, we will do this again!”
The unraveled young cubs followed their chagrined pack leader around the corner onto the main street, my young friend moved to my side and thanked me for my help, and started for the bus around the same corner as his attackers.
“Are you going to be alright?”, I asked the youngster.
“Yeah”, he responded adding, “That’s my bus and I’ll be okay from here.”
“You got to find some new friends and also find someplace to hang, I don’t know what your story is, but this should be a wakeup call”, I admonished him, but believed my words to be an unheeded caution.
“I’ll be okay”, he aasserted as he stared at the bus, seeming eager to escape warning.
The young man’s bus took off and I immediately lit up one of my two and a half pack a day smokes, I was a couple of years sober but still craved nicotine and drank far too much coffee, and as this incident proved I had some interesting adventure awaiting me. Now that I was a recovering alcoholic I didn’t, take drugs, curse, or fight, the idea of fighting street youths even in self-defense, still bothered me because recovery had brought back my soul and spirit. I mused on weather my young plaintiff had chosen the right champion, and pictured tomorrow’s headline proclaiming Youth and Black Man Beaten By Young Thugs!, I have no illusions that taking on a gang of antagonist (again) could guarantee me victory. My recovering alcoholic friends often speak of the trials and tribulations that sober life offers, and further deferred to the helpful advice found in books by; Karl Jung, Manuel Smith, Leo Buscaglia, John Bradshaw and several African American authors I studied in the sixties. This first two year plus sober business was rather overwhelming, at times I felt like an imposter acting as though I were a seriously sober person, all the while fearful I would be found out and drummed out of the Recovery Corp.
I have had several and dramatic battles during my past thirty-fives years of recovery life, some fights I’ve chosen to engage in, others I’ve just as eagerly ran away from. I have become aware, that I don’t have to be a pawn in other’s sick behavior. That little kid I protected would now be about 51 years old, I envision him having been able to make a decision and escape that horrendous youthful street life, but the memory of him gives me empathy for today’s street youth. I would hope that we adults can take a second to discover ways to protect our children, forego a couple of Lattes or video rentals and contribute to children action support groups. There are homeless and helpless children that watch us ignoring them every day.
You couldn’t go to my aunt’s house and leave without sharing a meal, she made certain hungry children felt welcome to partake in whatever they had, and she encouraged those children to return anytime. I am sometimes hurrying off to a recovering or church function; and pass by the local food bank or Home Front and Backpack children’s donation sites, rationalizing that I do so much in other areas, that I can dismiss this responsibility. I am an adult child of the charity (meaning love) of my formative neighborhood; I need to start giving back what was feely given me, and I want to be an example of someone grateful for the generosity of others.