I was riding the No.2 train through the South Bronx the other day and overheard a conversation one young man was having with a friend. They were sitting across the aisle from one another and the conversation, or testimony really, was obviously intended to include all who cared to listen.
The young man was explaining how he had freed himself from himself and was in mid-sentence when I focused on him, so I didn’t hear it all. But what I did hear was beautiful. It went something like this:
Yeah, so I got ninety days for that, you know. First thing they did when I got there was put me in the kitchen washin’ dishes. Yo man, you know I wasn’t about washin’ no dishes. People started complainin’ ’bout they dishes wasn’t clean. After a while, they tellin’ me I got to clean ’em right and sometimes they come and check. I had done this one pot ’bout three times and the man gonna say, ‘See that spot? You got to get that out. If it take you all night, you gonna clean this pot’. I had it in my hands and there was some water still in it. Yo, I threw it at him and said, ‘Clean it yo’self!’
Yeah, they put me in the hole for two weeks ‘caus a that. While I was in there, I had a lot a time to think about things, you know, my life and what not. Now, why I throw that pot at that man? He was trying to help me. Teach me some discipline. I’m sittin’ in the hole to get discipline now and, like it or not, that was my choice. I didn’t have to throw that pot.
Boy, I, useta fight! I’m talkin’ anybody for anything. Go for it, you know. I wondered why I was so angry all the time. I wasted five years and ninety days, for what?
I was always tryin’ to impress somebody. Tryin’ to fit in somebody else’s world. Walk the walk, talk the talk, so my friends would say I’m down. And if somebody cracked, I took it personal and we go at it, you know. And for what?
That’s why I said I can’t be tryin’ to impress nobody no mo’. I got to be me. This it. This all you got. This me. You like it? Cool. You don’t? That’s cool too. This me. And you know what? Since then, I notice how a lotta people my age, younger, and older be tryin’ to impress somebody. You know, I’m workin’ over at the Covenant House. I like it there cause I get to help some of those kids to accept themselves and like themselves and stop worryin’ ’bout what other people think or say. You ain’t no good to nobody if you don’t even like yourself.
There’s this one little thirteen year old girl at the Covenant. I treat her like a sister. She buggin’ ’cause all her friends got boyfriends, but she don’t got no boyfriend and she ain’t havin’ sex. I’m talkin’ thirteen years old! I told her she needed to worry ’bout graduatin’ from high school or how to get a job or goir’ to college. I told her, you want somebody to love you?…Love yourself! Yeah, that’s where peace begins.
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