So there I was, in the middle of my eighth grade year, discovering that life can be very cruel. I’d go to church and learn about this loving God, and how Christians, supposedly God’s people, were to change the world with love, compassion and mercy, and asked myself why there weren’t any Christians in my school. There couldn’t be. I had friends, mostly by nature of coincidence and geography, but there weren’t any to be found when I needed someone to believe in me…when I needed a vote of encouragement. What’s worse is I even started having a problem with a kid at church. My father told me to stand up for myself, but I couldn’t fight anyone in church, right? I didn’t. Instead, I stopped going.
As if all of those transitions weren’t enough, my family life started to change drastically. My mother had always been a stay at home mom, and my dad was supposed to be the bread winner. Unfortunately, the bipolar disorder he was trying to manage was wrecking havoc on his life. I don’t know what we would have done without the UAW. We would have been homeless for sure. I began to realize that although God was the creator of our world, money seemed to make it go around. Like one of those carousel rides outside of a store, we kept running out of money to make the world go.
One late evening, we were all in my parents room hanging out. My father’s depressive state drove him to lay in bed most of the day, so we would oftentimes congregate there to hang out as a family. I can’t remember how the conversation started. Maybe it was me bringing up that my parents neglected to leave me .40 cents the morning before to cover my reduced lunch fee. I just remember the conversation turning very gloomy. Now that I’m a parent, I can imagine any discussion about not providing basic essentials for your kids…WITH YOUR KIDS….has to be pretty embarrassing. I’ve written, in detail, how difficult it was growing up in a family that didn’t have much. I can’t say that I blame them for it all. Sure, I did hold a grudge for a while. This was before I realized how difficult it is to raise a child, let alone 3, with the limited resources that they had. I know, now more than ever, that my parents simply did the best that they could.
Back to that evening. I was now old enough to work. You could start your own paper route at 12 years old. Sensing the defeat on my father’s face regarding our financial challenges, I brought up the idea of me working to help contribute to the family. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and I was more than willing to do it. I thought my parents would share the same joy, and welcome my assistance. Instead, my father, breathing in short gasps of breath, began to cry. Seeing your father cry when you are a child has to be one of the most crippling things in the world. As a child, you look towards your parents to find comfort and stability. Your parents are supposed to have everything figured out. They aren’t supposed to cry.
All I can remember is how awful I felt. I just wanted to help my family. I was tired of not knowing what we would eat for dinner. I hated looking for lunch money in the morning, not seeing it, and pondering whether I should even ask for it. I wasn’t sure my parents needed some reminder. I think the just didn’t have enough. Instead, I’d go to school hungry, and learn the art of begging people for their spare change. I use to watch everyone who left the snack station in the back of the cafeteria. If I knew them, and they had loose change to put back into their pocket, I’d ask if they had a quarter. I’d say I was a quarter short and wanted a honeybun or something. Sometimes I’d get it. Other times, people gave me the cold shoulder.
I wonder if they might have changed their mind if they knew how hungry I was…of they knew my real situation. Of course I would never share the “real” situation. It was embarrassing. It was an interesting idea to transport sections of Inkster to Wayne, Michigan to merge socioeconomic cultures. There were such huge status gaps at Franklin. It’s so crazy that none of us realized that back then. It definitely created problems. There use to be some horrible fights in school. I remember two kids that lived down the street from me getting expelled for bringing a gun to school, and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones that packed some heat into the halls of Franklin. Bringing us Inkster folks into middle class Wayne, Michigan created a very unstable environment. It couldn’t have been the most conducive educational platform for all of us. It was for some, but I know it wasn’t for me.