Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hands, the Pickpocket, Meets the Real World

I wrote a fantasy novel, and I feel like I owe the world an explanation. There's a real world all around us, full of gripping problems in need of compassion, and wisdom, and instead of writing about that, I wrote about a place that only exists inside my head.

I worked in a behavioral facility for a year, back in 2005. The idea of the place was that we'd take kids with self-destructive behavior, show them it was destructive, and that they would change. These kids had seen stuff that made Sandusky seem like Santa Claus. They were untrusting and relentlessly combative. Then I got myself into a North Philly high school, where many of the kids were the same, though a little more resourceful. I watched those kids, ready to curse someone out if they felt something was unfair, ready to fight in response to perceived insult, untrusting, and ready to grab your attention by acting like a fool. I kept asking myself, "How are they going to make it? How are they going to become something beside a drug dealer or addict?"

Those kids, in some form, show up in my book. Hands, the neighborhood thief, insults the dead father of another kid, then gets beat up, and keeps talking trash. When Hands gets caught up in kingdom level drama, his toughness helps him but his pugnacious attitude keeps getting him in trouble.

As I was writing, there were a couple of take-aways I worked in. Kids make it cause they find people they can trust; basically it takes one person caring. Also, I believe that there is higher power who cares about these kids, even if society ignores them. We ought to care, and we will be judged based on our compassion. Sometimes, that part of the story that seems the most fantastical is not the imaginary creatures, or magical powers, but that there will be justice in the end, that the forgotten will be remembered. I love that part of the story.

Today one of my neighbors, a former student of mine, knocked on my door, and asked me to tie his tie. He's been out of school for a couple of years, living the trap life, and is trying to get back into school. I help him with the tie; I pray that he finds the a school were his humanness is honored, and his mind respected. There aren't a lot of places with the people, the money, or the heart for it.