A mentor’s story

By Steve Woodward

We spent a few hours together on weekends for a span of nine months. He was a high school teenager. I was assigned through a local agency to be his mentor. We both were novices — at being mentored and mentoring.

Let’s call him Buddy. Buddy was an atypical “troubled youth”. He was not always in trouble, or always pushing limits, or always back talking. He was, however, mostly neglected like so many teens denied an upbringing within a stable family. When I was introduced to Buddy he was living with an adult sister, who is married and has a child of her own. The arrangement came about after Buddy was involved in a domestic dispute in another state, which left him estranged from his mother and charged with several offenses as a juvenile.

I never pressed his sister for details. She often repeated that he was a good kid who just ended up in a bad situation.

His father lived hundreds of miles to the south. Buddy rarely spoke about him. Nonetheless, Buddy traveled to visit Dad for a period of time during the mentorship. He had very little to say about the visit when he returned. Buddy had very little to say about anything. He was painfully quiet, acutely shy and, I was told, uneasy around other kids in his high school. In fact, Buddy kept a distance from kids in the school he was attending when I first came onto the scene. It was a school for kids with behavioral issues. The deal was that Buddy would be eligible to transfer to a “normal” public high school if he stayed out of trouble. He was wise enough to know that trouble was one encounter away. So he told me he stayed clear of other kids, went to his sister’s house right after school and spent a lot of time alone in his room. He played video games, listened to music and lifted weights. I did my best detective work to get that much detail out of him.

Eventually, Buddy was transferred. That was progress. I had the impression he was proud of himself. A rye smile was the only confirmation of that. If I could get a smile out of him now and then that, too, was progress. When we first began our Saturday or Sunday interactions, I would try to chat him up. I was lucky to receive a head nod, or “yes” or “no” for my efforts. Finally, I figured out that if I endured long periods of silence Buddy eventually would mumble a question. “Ever been fishin’?” “Do you like motorcycles?” “Do you play video games?”

As time passed, there was no doubt that he enjoyed our get-togethers. His sister always delivered Buddy right on time, and off we’d go. He had a typical teenager appetite for junk food, sweet tea and jumbo soft drinks. He was the most meticulous eater I’ve ever seen, and not one to chit-chat over a meal. During our occasional sit-down meals, Buddy typically ordered chicken and french fries. He would eat all of the fries, one by one, before moving on to the chicken. We made a deal that he would try one new menu item. Eventually, he ate seafood. A dramatic breakthrough.

My mentor role was focused on spending time with Buddy away from school, so I was tasked with finding new things for us to do or see. We visited Fort Bragg, an indoor skydiving facility in Raeford (where Buddy was a willing participant), and a car show in Charlotte at the speedway. We attended a Panthers football game one sunny Sunday, and a Hurricanes hockey game in Raleigh. We went fishing, bike riding around Reservoir Park, and hung out during a fall arts, crafts and food festival. Buddy was doing all of the things I never did as the father of a daughter with a horse.

I never was able to come close to peeling away his emotional shell to understand what was going on inside of his head. I never wanted Buddy to feel he was being interrogated. Occasionally, he would giggle convulsively while we were together. I wondered if this was an expression of joy, or an expression of what he thought about his gray haired, salad eating, sparkling water sipping mentor. Maybe he thought of me as a big dork. No telling. Nonetheless, when our time together came to an end — his charges were dropped and he was green lighted to leave town and move in with his Dad — Buddy strained to look me in the eye as he stammered, “I’m gonna miss you, man.”

I miss Buddy, too. My experience tells me that Americans might consider spending more time mentoring and encouraging neglected teens and less time knee-jerk reacting to gun and other violence perpetrated by emotionally damaged young men. Just think how many Buddys are out there today with no one to talk to who cares about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilot embraces Trump hate

By Steve Woodward

The Pilot’s editorial standards achieved a new low when editors published a letter by Clifton Frye (The Morning After, Nov. 10) in which the author drew comparisons between the President of the United States in 2018, Donald Trump, and Germany’s Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

Mr. Frye contends President Trump is a “(Russian Premier Vladimir) Putin-lover” and unconcerned about “home grown terrorist attacks”. What delusion. Domestic terrorism is driven by the refusal of citizens to be vigilant about their neighbors’ mental health issues and by the continuous illegal entry of undocumented individuals, which Democrats openly facilitate.

Being “bankrupted and sued” – which Mr. Frye assigns as a Trump flaw — comes with the territory of running a large commercial real estate empire. Bankruptcy is aided and abetted by Democrats who delight in seeing companies reorganize, which is the essence of bankruptcy. This is far different from liberal states, where pensions are bankrupt with no solutions to restructure them, save for raising taxes – again and again.

Mr. Frye says the President “feeds on divisive rhetoric”. Why? Because he desires to Make America Great Again, a goal shared by millions, control our southern borders and denounce trade partners who have taken advantage of our country for decades?

The notion that this positions President Trump as a modern day “Hitler” revolts Jewish Harvard University law scholar and lifetime Democrat Alan Dershowitz.

“It’s a horrible analogy because it’s a form of Holocaust denial,” Dershowitz said. “When you say Trump’s like Hitler what you’re saying is that the Jews of Germany and the Jews of Poland didn’t suffer anymore than we’re suffering now, and that there were no gas chambers, that there were no death camps.”

None of this occurred to the Pilot’s editorial board?

 

Heaven’s gates in Carthage

Much of political debate is policy debate. Lifelong Republicans go the polls to elect lawmakers who believe in limited federal government, the importance of the institutions of marriage and the family, the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, to name the basic pillars.

But we know all too well that governments and lawmakers can not intervene in every struggle that a citizen or a family will face. Thankfully, Americans are generous and caring. Many work in complete obscurity with faith-based organizations to help those who come to them in desperate need.

One such group are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and here in Moore County these victims find support and hope through Friend to Friend, which provides resources to rebuild lives.

A woman taken in by Friend to Friend described arriving at the Carthage-based facility as an experience similar to passing through “the gates of Heaven.”

Connie Lovell recently had a conversation with FTF’s children’s program coordinator, who devotes her days to interacting with the children of women who’ve escaped abuse. Click here to hear her story and more about the mission of Friend to Friend

Community in Action introduces local agencies that offer assistance that builds opportunity. Spots air at 10:20 a.m. Saturdays on 102.5 FM, and at 12:50 p.m. Saturdays on 550 AM.