“You mean you left LA to be here? In Española? Why in the heck would you do that? There’s nothing out here. It sucks.”
She is about 10 feet away. Black shiny wavy long hair. Maroon sweater and a blue backpack to her left on her desk.
I zero in. Stare into her eyes without even a fluttering of my eyelids.
“Because I want to be here with you.”
I jerk my gaze and look at José, then James then Sylvia as I say, “And for you, and for you, and for you,” pointing with my right index finger in unison with “you.”
Do you know that look – almost like a blush, but nothing romantic? The this-is-so-hopeful-I-almost-don’t-believe-it look?
I was one of them as a teenager. And in my twenties. And into my thirties. You feel alone. You think you’re not one of them. You feel nobody important cares about you.
A boy at the corner of the horseshoe table raises his hand. “So, Paul, you were a horrible student in high school. You didn’t have the best family life, and education wasn’t stressed when you were our age. And you made it.”
“What do you expect we do better?”
Total silence in the class. They await my answer. I relish their attention. What I say will matter.
“You’re in bed. It’s pitch dark. You’re thirsty. You get up. You must search with your hands for the light switch. You all know what I mean?”
“You find the switch. You flip it. You now see. Your vision changes. You’ve all been there?”
“That will happen to some of you. You will somehow see that nobody can f-ing determine your future. You will become almost enraged, obsessed, almost demonized. Because it’s your life — you will own it and not let anyone else own it.”
Silence. Fourteen fixed gazes.
On the wall is the mission statement of the school. I point to it. I read this part.
“Look at that. You believe it? You? A globally competitive citizen?”
“I do, and I thank each of you for being so respectful and paying attention.”
As founder of the Child Rights Foundation, I am here, we are here, for them. Because children matter. And they are always innocent.