The following is an entry from my CiViL Groups Log on April 7, 2004. All names have been changed to protect privacy.
This week’s senior group was going to include Lidell, Puka and Winton, but Puka and Lidell wouldn’t stop teasing each other. Lidell finally had enough and asked if he could leave. I said he could, so he went to the Library. I told Puka I was disappointed to have the group messed up like that. I know it was both of their faults, but I wish they would leave the teasing outside. It gets in the way.
Happy Numb Face
I asked Puka to start with his check-in. As he talked about one of his classes I could tell he was going into I-don’t-care mode. He said, “It’s cool. That’s just the way it is.” I hear this over and over from kids here. They feel powerless to change what seems impossible or unfair, so they give up. Then they put a happy, numb face on their despair and find some way to feel good. Puka is doing that now.
I told Puka that when he goes into I-don’t-care mode, it’s like he’s a dead dog, boring and lifeless. I said, “I’ve seen you when you believe you can make something happen. You’ll have some scheme going, selling tickets to a party or making a connection in the music biz. You can be alive and engaging and a lot of fun. When you can’t make it happen, you go into this dead I-don’t-care mode. It makes me feel sad when you go there. Something is lost when you do that. It’s as if the part of you that believes you can make something happen gets buried under a sand dune of I-can’t-do-anything-so-I-don’t-care. It’s such a loss. The real Puka is under there, but he’s covered up with apathy.” I told him that lots of people feel that, especially people who give up on finding justice or making a good life happen.
At some point he started telling us about his experience in Student Truancy Court. He said the judge lectured all the students there, telling them that they are not equals to adults. Odds are the judge was reacting to all the juvenile bravado and arrogance. To Puka, the judge’s lecture sounded like tyranny. He said he has heard the same kind of thing conversations with the school Principal.
When Puka was talking about injustice, he came alive. He was passionate and excited, listing one point after another. I asked Winton, “Does it seem like Puka just woke up?” Winton agreed. Puka had been numb as a dead man, not caring about a thing. Then, minutes later, he was living, passionate firebrand who cared deeply about something important.
Puka Tells A Story
Our interest in his passion fanned the flames. Puka told a “hypothetical” story about “a guy” who got into an altercation with some students from “Raplewood” High School “a long, long time ago.” The name of this fictitious school, “Raplewood,” is reminiscent of rivel Maplewood High School. Those “Raplewood” students intended to beat the guy up, but they couldn’t find him. They found his sister, instead, so they beat up her up. To make it right the guy called up his buddies from “Ratford” High, also a fictional school with a name remarkably similar to Stratford High School where we were meeting. The “Ratford” High School boys went to find the guy who beat up this young man’s sister. In Puka’s words, “They gave him facial reconstruction surgery after he stepped off the bus.”
Deadness or Revenge
Puka has two extremes. When he feels the injustice that he can’t do anything about, he goes numb and stops caring. He said that’s the way he is at school. When he doesn’t do that, he goes to the other extreme, exacting his own justice if he can. Deadness or revenge are his two responses to unfairness. He said, “Of course I’m not like that all the time. Most of the time I’m just fun-loving, cool Puka.” “As long as there’s not some painful circumstance involved, when life’s going well,” I said. He said, “That’s right.”
We talked about how Winton handles the same kind of situation. They’ve known each other since grade school, so I asked Puka if he thinks Winton’ calmness is also an I-don’t-care strategy. Puka didn’t think so. “That’s just Winton,” he said.
Any Other Options?
As the bell rang I challenged Puka to think of two other options to the I-can’t-do-anything-about-it,-so-I-won’t-care routine and the I’ll-get-revenge routine. Immediately he said, “Pray about it.” He is so smart, but he doesn’t have a clue how to make that answer a practical reality in his life. I hope I can show him.