Laughing

Ms. Sophie’s lesson

was interrupted

when Patty

sitting in front of me

soaked her panties,

the chair,

the floor

I had no thought

of being mean

Totally surprised

by the urine stream

Spontaneous laugh

attention drawn

creating outbursts

in the class

Almost wet myself

Action I now deplore

I was only seven then

But damn it felt good to laugh

a rarity at my house

Similar to Patty

my body craved a release

a different kind

So pent-up inside was my need

once I began

I couldn’t stop

It was contagious

The class infected

Aching sides

Teary eyes

Flopping

Dropping

Rolling in the aisles

Only two

without laughter and smiles

Teacher

turned preacher

sermonizing our sin

And Patty

turned to stone

in wet panties

on a wet seat

above a damp floor

so alone

How could she know

our laughter

was no longer

about her?

She merely provided

the spark

We were tinder

ready to burn

Kids in a community

with nothing to smile about

nothing to laugh about

except each other

Poverty

supplied the punch-line

We… were the joke

© JW Thomas

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Damaged

[Inspired from a famous Great Depression photo by Dorothea Lange.]

 

She looked your way

Dorothea;

not at you

straight thru

Do you bear the scar

of her glare?

The windows to her soul

are dark

Deep wells

without wishes

Nearly as dead

as her dreams

Damaged child

sub-living in Shacktown,

Elm Grove,

Oklahoma, U.S. of A.

Nineteen-thirty

and ought six

Dust Bowl daughter

Child of the Depression

No smile

no frown

numb

A slice of bread shy

of starvation bloat

Her neckline descending

from her throat

Too thin

to fill her top in

Dorothea,

how could you look

immortalize her pain

and walk away?

 

 

© JW Thomas

Offenses and extenuating circumstances

[*I had no time to write a new post, so I’m reprinting one from a previous blog that encourages us to find better ways to deal with young offenders; especially those with extenuating circumstances.]

 

Did you see the story of the family evicted from section 8 housing because the 13-year-old son stole a pair of shoes from K-mart to keep his feet warm? A single-mother and her three children have been told to vacate their Grand Junction apartment in two weeks, right around Christmas, because of the incident that had nothing to do with the apartment complex.

 

By no means am I condoning the act of stealing, but what type of lesson has the system just taught this family (especially the young kids)? This boy, after being forced to wear tattered shoes because of the family’s poverty, which kept his feet cold and hurting, was tempted (as any child would be) to find a way to relieve the pain. And he made a wrong choice. But the system that blindly and callously casts the entire family, including the boy’s two younger siblings, out in the dead of winter is a far greater criminal act than what the child did.

 

The manager of the apartment complex in Grand Junction said in a statement to the media that “shoplifting violated the family’s lease agreement” — (Huffington Post). Any criminal activity, even off the premises, is grounds for immediate eviction. But what they fail to take into account is the extenuating circumstance. This was not a case of a hard-nosed delinquent trying to get over on the system; it was a poor child with hurting feet trying to ease the suffering. And now that child is riddled with guilt over his mother and siblings being cast out into the cold for something he did.

 

The act of shoplifting should not be condoned, but the manager missed a great opportunity to make a huge difference in the life of both this boy and his family. Instead of evicting them it would have been much better to let the boy see the error of his ways, and then give him the opportunity to make up for his mistake by working around the apartment complex (about two weeks), and then paying him enough to buy a pair of shoes. The boy would learn he had to take responsibility for his actions and that it is better to work for things you need instead of stealing. And his younger siblings would have seen the lesson as well, and their mother would have felt that someone in society actually cared about her circumstance and attempted to help instead of simply adding to her burden because it’s easier for the manager and property owners to callously cast an adult and three children into the cold: hoping they can find a shelter that will take them.  

 

The action taken by the manager and property owners has only reinforced the belief to this family, especially the children, that nobody cares for them so they need to look out for themselves. And that kind of belief will create the temptation for more bad choices.

 

The majority of Americans use to have compassion and think about others more than themselves, but those days appear to be long gone. That’s what happens when you take a loving God out of a society’s belief system.

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© JW Thomas