It was just an umbrella, nothing more, but it was enough. It was enough to be the final straw and nearly cost him his life.
It wasn't that the staff didn't try understand and empathize with students' families. We did, and we also tried to bridge the gap whenever we could.
There were two universal realities I became accustomed to during my decade in an urban school district. The first was that the majority of students were in one-parent homes. The other was that sometimes students came to school with bruises.
D.J. was bright and amiable, and talked about going to junior college. For students in our program, that was a pretty high aspiration.
It was impossible to miss the bruises on D.J.'s face. Thankfully, he had bonded with my teaching friend, Teresa. D.J. told her things were pretty bad at home between him, his mom, and grandma.
Eventually, word sifted around that D.J.'s mom had put a contract out him. My heart broke when he came into the computer lab for class that day. Teaching and learning weren't an option; listening and caring were the only priorities.
It took a while, but D.J. finally told about yet another fight with his mom and grandma. At some point during the fight, he'd grabbed his grandma's umbrella, and it had gotten broken.
In D.J.'s story that was the point when both grandma and mom snapped and kicked him out of the house. Raw emotion was scratched into his young face and tinged every word.
D.J.'s trusting relationship with Teresa may have saved his life. She was able to intervene with help from agencies to keep D.J. safe and help his family get back on track.
Dear Reader, I'm one of those people who cries at the Humane Society commercials. D.J.'s bruises and story broke my heart. What was scary was to know neither were unusual for students in our program. It was happening in our city, only a few miles from where our daughter went to school. It wasn't New York or Chicago or Watts.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Don’t you know? When you cared for one of the least important of these my little ones, my true brothers and sisters, you demonstrated love for me.’
Matthew 25: 40 TPT