“Do you ever dream Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?” Jane asked.
“Who am gonna be?” Forrest asked, without answering Jane’s question.
“Yeah,” Jane replied.
“Aren’t I going to be me?”
“Well, you’ll always be you,” said Jane, “just another kind of you. You know? I want to be famous,” she continued. “I want to be a singer like Joan Baez. I just want to be on an empty stage with my guitar, my voice. Just me.”
That is a scene from Forrest Gump, one of my all-time favourite movies. In fact, it is my go-to source of inspiration after I have prayed, consulted and want to reflect on the answers I have received. Thanks to the movie, I have decided that when I finally go to the US – for a triathlon, Chicago Marathon or to visit President Donald Trump and tell him about my wonderful boys – I am going to eat shrimp, at every meal.
This is what Private Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue has to say about shrimps
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
– Viktor Frankl (March 26, 1905–September 2, 1997)
Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea
Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea and you can do anything with shrimp. But this isn’t about shrimp. It is about the need for every human being to find meaning in life. By the end of the war, Forrest Gump decides to pursue a business idea that arose from his ‘shrimp conversation’ with Bubba. It is like thinking about having a shrimp company gave Gump hope and the will to survive the war and the odds against him.
Just like Gump and everyone of us, no single boy in juvenile prison wants to end up a nobody. They all want to live a meaningful life. After all, there is much more to having a heart that beats and a pair of lungs than merely breathing. Juvenile prison is full of young boys whose hearts beat, eyes shine bright and possess a will to do much more than breathing. They just need an extra push, a reminder about God’s purpose for them and a nudge in the right direction.
It is not something you can tell from a casual one-time visit. You just have to keep coming and exercise loads of patience. Take Promise for instance. Promise is a 13 year-old boy who has been in prison for the past 10 months. He was in Form One by the time he committed a crime and came to prison. His family has never visited him. Last Friday, he drew us a map to indicating where we can find his mom and siblings.
I remember the first time I met the whole group to tell them about my work with boys and ask if they would join our mentoring and coaching program. I was with Tracy Hanson who had come to introduce The Matrix of a Learner. All the time we spoke, Promise looked at us with lots of interest. He was quick to answer every question, even when he didn’t have a clue. With time, I discovered how brilliant he is. In fact, though he is the youngest and smallest, his wisdom defies his size and age.
Yesterday, I mentioned how I always feel like I am merely throwing pebbles into the ocean of guilt, pain and confusion that the boys have found themselves in after committing a crime. Follow this link to read yesterday’s post.
The magnitude of what lies ahead of me makes my ability and self-belief that I can accomplish this on my own to shrivel and diminish. That happens every single minute. it doesn’t matter what I could be doing at that time. I could be sleeping at night, running, biking, driving or writing for a client. The feeling and conviction is usually the same. For this to work and transform the lives of the boys in a meaningful way, I need God and His divine provision.
1, 000, 000%.
A recap of last Friday’s session
And so it happens that last Friday I asked what else the boys would like to do with their time. They are already involved in cleaning, exercise, playing soccer, bead work and mostly sitting in the sun and thinking about their court cases. Promise, like many of the other boys isn’t involved in anything apart from attending the Lifesong Kenya weekly mentoring sessions. He wakes up every day to sit in the sun, think about his court case and how he is going to defend himself. That is what he has been doing for the last 10 months. Meanwhile, boys his age and especially his former classmates have advanced to a new class and will finish high school in two years’ time. All this may happen while Promise is locked up in prison.
“Teacher Jim Buttons,” Promise said, “Why don’t you teach us how to make beads and earn from it when go back home?”
“Why would you want to learn how to make beads?” I asked.
“Because I am tired of receiving things from well-wishers,” he said. “I want to do something and be able to buy bread, milk and my own underwear.”
“Okay, how will that make you feel?” I asked.
“It will bring meaning to the time we have spent here,” Treasure, a quiet 17 year old boy said. Because he usually doesn’t speak that much, the whole group clapped for him. “I want to learn a skill that I will use to earn an income when I leave prison.”
“Well, I want us to do much more with this idea,” I said. “Let’s gather and pray about it. Think way before you exit the prison and think about what this could do to the time you’ll be spending here, from now going forward. Think about these things even as we pray,” I added as the circle completed on to my right and left.
And so tomorrow, the Team Lifesong Kenya and Standing With Boys will take part in the Parklands Baptist Church 2017 triathlon. Our team is made up of Kelvin Hondo who will run, while Elisha and I will bike to raise seed capital. This money will enable us to buy beads and the other things we need for our bead making project. We also need volunteers to come teach the boys basic book keeping and business management skills. Feel free to donate and contribute any amount of your choice.
Every contribution matters and counts. Please get involved!
“James, these boys are worth saving, I can see it in their hopeful eyes,”
– Patty Liston, when she recently visited and spent time with our boys.