August 22, 2006

Those Amazing, Troubled, Terrific, Wonderful Kids

I work with kids, lots and lots of kids, some are a real pain, some are classical troubled kids, all are terrific in different ways. One group of kids I have worked with have been placed in a Juvenile Boot Camp for a variety of infractions, all serious but none serious enough to warrant being sent to The Texas Youth Commission. There, in addition to the counseling provided by my organization for substance abuse, these kids work with Drill Instructors, School Teachers, Counselors and Juvenile Probation Officers as well as with a number of volunteers.

Don't get me wrong, these kids have put themselves in hack, and they will have to work themselves out of it. Having said that, they are all still terrific kids with a bright future if they work at it. Most of them come from poverty, some of them from broken homes, many of them were abused in one way or another but all of them deserve a second chance.

Working with a group of volunteers these terrific kids have done a number of memorials to those slain on September 11, 2001. In 2004 they held a memorial service complete with a flag ceremony, taps, color guard and the whole 9 yards. This year, they painted the somewhat fanciful but hauntingly real mural pictured above. They have talent, often wasted, but real talent indeed.

So, I'm going to ask you, my beloved readers, a favor. These terrific kids, the same ones who can be a real pain, can also be future solid citizens. Please post a comment addressed to "Dear Kids," and give them a word of encouragement. If they can see that they have the support they need to make some real changes in their lives, you will be proud to have them as neighbors and friends. So, come on and make a comment, offer a word of encouragement and watch some kids turn it around. Thanks!

In about a week or ten days, I'll be printing up the comments and taking them out to the Camp for the kids to post on their memorial wall and copies for them to keep.

Posted by GM Roper at August 22, 2006 08:46 PM | TrackBack

Dear Kids, this is a powerful work of art you have created, with a depth of soul that is utterly amazing, especially coming from kids your age.

The emotion that you evoke with the symbols here is stunningly blatent is its' raw emotion, and I believe you have pegged the state of Liberty in these troubled times.

But take heart, dear children, for Liberty may be weeping, but the American Spirit will triumph with hard work and perserverence,a nd one day Liberty will reign everywhere.

Posted by Kender at August 22, 2006 09:19 PM

Dear Kids......though the heart may be wounded, the face bloodied...yet we stand.Though they wish us dead, though they seek to take from us what is most precious..yet we stand.

Now, it is time for you to stand as well.

What is past does not matter, as long as you learn from it.What is ahead will matter..and only each of you knows what that may be.

Each of you faces adversity...each of you has made mistakes...but remember, as my first commander taught me in Rescue is not what mistakes you make that is what you make of those mistakes.

Those around you want to help you..want to see you leave, strong, proud..both of yourselves and of your country...the United States remains a beacon off hope and freedom to many nations..mine included.

You can do it.

I know you can.

Dear kids....reach for the mountaintop.

You can do it.

Posted by Sonnabend at August 22, 2006 10:07 PM

To the "Talent!"

Your work of art is totally selfless and hopefully a great source of pride. A pride and a sense of giving that I hope none of you loose as you find your place in a better future while you anchor and plot your chosen goals.

You have grabbed one "place" already - A place in the hearts of those who have been given a chance to share your talented and giving tribute. I, for one, Thank You.

You've chosen truly important pieces to collage a tribute to our times and our country.

During "low times" in your future (we all have them) - remember your contribution of this wonderful, selfless tribute and the people you have impressed or honored with your talent and work.

P.S. You know how old people are? Yep - thought you did. So, from an old Army Vet who's worked in publishing a long time - an added "Old Person" observation - - There's even space in the bottom right corner for the pentagon (at an angle) or flight 93 (September 11th is so near). Since you have included the World Trade Center already.

Maybe even better! - the "empty" corner would be well served with the addition of your names. That way your gift will remind people who you are. I, for one, refuse to call you just "kids!" It takes more than "just kids" to work together to create such an impressive result.

Posted by chrys at August 23, 2006 12:37 AM

My heart almost stopped when the picture loaded. What wonderful talent and motivation these great kids have -- and I say great because they are moving forward and with god's help, through others, they will be even greater! Ah, the TYC - haven't heard that in a while. Worked in Bell County for the TDCJ-ID in the probation area when we were exhiled to Texas by the military.

Posted by Jo at August 23, 2006 04:07 AM

Dear Kids,

True fulfilllment in life will be found when you live and strive for something bigger than yourself. I can see by your artwrok that you already know and understand more than many adults twice and three times your age. You get it.

Our Western civiliation is under attack now like it has never been before - and our nation needs people who have a clear-eyed vision of right and wrong. The people who are investing in you right now are helping you discern the difference.

Bootcamp may seem tough while you're in it - but if you let it, it can help you clear the baggage away, and make room for your wonderful spirit and inner strength to grow. I can see by the passion you poured into your artwork, that you've already started. Remember, what you are learning right now is that the Right thing is rarely, if ever, the Easy thing.

Here is a lesson I've taught my own kids: Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. Never, never, never, never, never, never give up. And never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.

Posted by Redhead Infidel at August 23, 2006 04:38 AM

Dear kids -

Oh, how beautiful and moving! You did a wonderful job on this beautiful artwork, and your hard work and love shine through clearly. I really hope that all of you keep your hand in, because this artwork shows you have great talent.

I know that you-all have had difficult lives, and have made mistakes, but I want to encourage you: you've made such a wonderful choice to CHANGE for the better. You are blessed with many people who will help you change, but YOU are the ones doing the really hard work.

Of course I don't know you personally, but you make me so proud! It is young men and women like yourselves - those who work hard, who love their country and their friends, who have dreams they strive for - who are the future of our country. I am so glad that there will be men and women of character, like YOU! - who will one day guide our country.

So, I urge you to heed the words of the Father of our country, George Washington: "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company. "
And I also remind you of the brave words of Winston Churchill: "Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

So, thank you once again for your beautiful artwork! And don't forget, YOU are the captains of your lives. You're going in the right direction, and if you keep up the dedicated, hard work the sky's the limit!

Good luck, and may God richly bless you!

-- Kat

Posted by Kat at August 23, 2006 04:42 AM

Dear kids:

Very nice. You have shown here that you can succeed, no matter what has happened before. While you cannot erase your past, you can learn from it, and you can change the future. Keep up the good, hard work -- it will always be rewarding in the end.

Posted by Ogre at August 23, 2006 06:26 AM

Hey Kids,
You're growing up and soon you will be Adults. With the depth of heart you put into this picture you will be a great addition to the society you live in.

This is outstanding work. All of your toils will pay off in your future. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Never Quit, Never Give up

Posted by Michael at August 23, 2006 07:45 AM

Dear Kids:

1. My mother died when I was 5.

2. I had to repeat the 1st grade as my reading skills were not up to standard.

3. I had a paper route for seven years (EVERY day the papers were delivered...on my the sun, in the rain). I mowed lawns, weeded yards, collected bottles for extra cash.

4. There was alcohol and lots of violence and verbal abuse in my home...towards me. LOTS.

5. I quit high school at 17 and joined the Marines.

What were my chances?

a. I got my GED in the Marines.

b. I traveled all 'round the world...and still do.

c. I went to night school and earned my BA at 35.

d. I now have three masters degrees, a good job as a college instructor AND I retired from the Marines as a Lieutentant Colonel (working my way slowly up from Private to Staff Sergeant and Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel).

Note: Life, I think, is about choices. Make good ones and life usually gets better. If you hang around with'll end up being a criminal. If you hang around with good people, you'll probably end up happy and successful.

Set goals for toward them. Ask for advice and help from people you really trust and really respect. Read lots of books.

Good Luck. Your country and the world NEED for you to do well. We want you to be successful.

Posted by tad at August 23, 2006 07:48 AM

Dear Kids,

Consider this....

An expert said of Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks Motivation.”

When Peter J. Daniel was in the fourth grade, his teacher, Mrs. Phillips, constantly said, “Peter J. Daniel, you’re no good, you’re a bad apple and you’re never going to amount to anything.” Peter was totally illiterate until he was 26. A friend stayed up with him all night and read him a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Now he owns the street corners he used to fight on and just published his latest book: Mrs. Phillips, You Were Wrong.

Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant or seamstress by her family.

Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.

The parents of the famous opera singer Enrico Caruso wanted him to be an engineer. His teachers said he had no voice at all and could not sing.

Charles Darwin, father of the Theory of Evolution, gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Walt Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything.

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School.

Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15 out of 22 in chemistry.

Isaac Newton did very poorly in grade school.

The sculptor Rodin’s father said, “I have an idiot for a son.” Described as the worst pupil in the school, Rodin failed three times to secure admittance to the school of art. His uncle called him uneducable.

Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, flunked out of college. He was described as “both unable and unwilling to learn.”

Playwright Tennessee Williams was enraged when his play, Me, Vasha was not chosen in a class competition at Washington University where he was enrolled in English XVI. The teacher recalled that Williams denounced the judges’ choices and their intelligence.

F. W. Woolworth’s employers at the dry goods store said he had not enough sense to wait upon customers.

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.

Babe Ruth, considered by sports historians to be the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record, also holds the record for strikeouts.

Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 62, and then only after a lifetime of defeats and setbacks. His greatest contributions came when he was a “senior citizen.”

Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, before Macmillan finally published it in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone.

Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H, only to have it rejected by 21 publishers before Morrow decided to publish it. It became a runaway bestseller, spawning a blockbusting movie and highly successful television series.

Posted by Tom at August 23, 2006 11:52 AM

Yo guys and dolls!
The mural is tight!..most excellent!
Keep rockin and hey...take the word "failure" out of your vocabulary and throw it in the trash bin eh?

Posted by Angel at August 23, 2006 03:20 PM

Dear Kids,
I am a teacher of more than thirty years--Yes, I am OLD! And I'm here to tell you that the past does not determine your future. Besides, if truth be told, all of us have had to overcome something in our past--for some of us, that something was very hard to overcome.

Every single individual on this planet has, in some way, had to learn from the rough spots. Life hands each of us rough spots. Put those behind you.

Now, as to that illustration at the top of this blog article, all I can say is "WOW!" I can't even draw a stick man!

Let your talent shine. Find your voice. Don't be discouraged. Pray every day. And try to remember that there are more people pulling for you than against you. Find and listen to the voices of your supporters, and forge ahead.

God bless each of you.

Posted by Always On Watch at August 23, 2006 04:41 PM

Dear Kids,

I really am not sure what to say except to give you the advice I followed myself. Try as hard as you can and never give up.

You will experience success and failure but as time goes on the successes become more common. But remember, a baseball player is considered great if he gets a hit 1 out of 3 times. You don't always have to get a hit or win to be successful. Just get back up every time you fall and keep trying.

You will find that your accomplishments are yours and you can be proud of them. Not the false pride of having cool shoes or something but real pride in your acheivement.

Live long and prosper.

Posted by DADvocate at August 23, 2006 05:18 PM

Hey Kids--
You all have proven that you have what it takes to be wonderful and productive members of the great American society! We all make mistakes in our lives- and we all have an oppurtunity to repent these mistakes.

Never give up trying to be the best person you can be- and never surrendor to being anything LESS than the best. You will cross many paths in your lives- some will be rough and others easy. Follow your heart and listen to that person deep inside you, who guides your way when you're lost. Listen to your instincts and to those who hold some wisdom. You can't go wrong.

As for this artwork- it is absolutely awesome. THANK YOU for this. It warms my heart to see these things.
You all rock. Please keep on being who you all are. Let your talent and soul shine through everything you do!

Posted by Raven at August 23, 2006 06:21 PM

Dear kids,
The work you did is absolutely wonderful and demonstrates that you have a great deal of talent. The work you did shows that when you put your minds to it, you can accomplish anything. The fact that you all did it together shows you the value of teamwork.

It does not matter why you are where you are at this point in your lives. What matters is the actions you take to get to a better place from here. You obviously have the intelligence and skill to work well with others and accomplish wonderful things. What you have to now have to ask yourselves is:

"Do I have the desire to do well?"

I am sure that you do and that you will succeed. You have the talent and the skill and so long as you have the desire you will always do well.

God Bless,
Big Dog

Posted by Big Dog at August 24, 2006 09:08 AM

Dear Kids,

When I was growing up in a northeastern city, we were so broke in my single-parent dysfunctional home that when I busted the window in my room, we repaired it with heavy plastic and duct tape, and left it at that. I sat through two winters next to that very drafty "window" -- leaning in close to the lamp to get warmer doing my homework, and with a nonstop runny nose from November to April. Still, I kept my spot on a varsity team and got mostly A's en route to getting accepted to a good college.

When you're too used to dealing with problems on your own, one of the hardest lessons is learning how to accept help from other people. This includes from people who've never known your problem but whose perspective or wisdom still may be just the thing you need, and who may care more than you imagine.

A man's character is simply the moral sum of his actions added together: the more and better your actions, the more and better your character. It's that simple.

"Failures" are only opportunities to get better.

"Success" comes in cans. (Corny, but true.)

By now certain people that you've read or heard about are probably starting to stick in your mind and are your heroes. One of the first things I recommend you do when you become an adult is to go visit the gravesite of at least one of your heroes. You can make it a big deal by bringing others along, or just go on your own. You'll know what's best.

And when you're up against what seem likes your very worst trouble, with no solution in sight, remember:

The Best "Way Out" is Through.


PS - That's one fine mural you made! It's loyal, proud, and unsentimental.

Posted by Jeremayakovka at August 24, 2006 05:17 PM

If there's anything that being in America proves, it's that you can come back from bad decisions. Apparently, you've made some. Guess what? You'll make more, just like the rest of us. You can come back from it.

My Dad went to jail when I was young, and I was always determined that whatever else I did, I'd be a good dad. It's been the best job I've ever had.

Here's a hint: If you learn to watch yourself from the outside, instead of just living in your own head, you'll say fewer dumb things.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at August 24, 2006 07:41 PM

The only way that a kid can "turn it around" is if they want to. You cannot force them.

I have been there. I never had any help and I turned out alright. I was raised in foster care, got lost in the system. Was abused.. ect. I quite doing drugs at 12 and moved out at 14. I have been supporting myself since and am a respected individual in my community. Point being; I know what it's like.

You have to be stronger than what life deals you. You cannot choose what you start out with, but you always have a say in where you are going.

Best of luck in all your endevours,


Posted by Troll at August 25, 2006 01:22 AM

I'm only 23, but here's my advice anyway:

Make the concious choice to hang out with people who are (in your heart of hearts) struggling to do things that are good for themselves, their families, you and society in general.

Start reading books and don't stop. Take interest in something, anything, that gets you away from the wrong scene and don't stop doing it.

Keep your mind set on goals that you care about and find a mentor who you respect that can help you through hard times and hard choices.

This may not seem realistic now, but desperately pursue your dreams. Visualize your success in life and you will be unstoppable. Constantly remind yourself of where you want to be in ten, twenty years and the little jabs that people make about the changes they see in you won't hurt as much.

Posted by a girl at August 25, 2006 10:26 AM

Dear Kids,

Every one of us has been a "kid" at one time, and trust me, we've all "been there, done that."

We know that all the stuff that got you into hot water now will soon turn around and serve you well. Unlikely as it may seem, all the oppositional behavior, all the hostility, all the poor judgment calls, all the really bad planning - it's all something that happens to everyone, and in most of us, it becomes a good thing. It will become a good thing for you, too, very soon.

Right now, you are becoming the fiercely moral warriors that you and your children will need to be in the coming years, because the probability is that we will not be able to wrap things up before you take our places on the front lines.

Learn about the enemy and what he wants to do to you and yours. Learn what you are fighting FOR, as well as what you are fighting AGAINST. Learn that it was the Enlightenment, in full swing during the Colonial period, that for the first time in human history gave us a real grasp of human rights, and then led to the design of our country "from scratch", the first country EVER to be created with the recognition that human beings had rights.

Oh, sure, it took us a while to get it right, but we kept at it, and eventually "got it." It wasn't all that long ago, though, and it's up to you to be sure that it hasn't all been a "flash in the pan," soon to disappear like a poorly remembered dream.

If you learn what you are fighting for, in addition to what you are fighting against, it will help you maintain the stamina and endurance you will need as you enter adulthood and the troubled times ahead. Don't let the enemy take all this from you just as your lives are beginning.

I'm going to be telling my own grandchild, who will be two next month, and my as-yet-to-be-born granddaughter, the very same thing that I'm telling you right here as soon as they are old enough to understand; just in case, I will leave them a letter.

Until you - you and my grandchildren and all the other young Americans - are ready to take our places, we will do our best to hold the fort for you.

Good luck to all of you, and God bless.

Posted by cubed at August 25, 2006 03:51 PM

Dear Kids,

Your mural: powerful colors, sharp borders, icons that twist the guts like a knife -- no pastels or fudging here. The epitome of radical art that embraces truth as a lifeline.

Your lives: You're behind on the count, but you know the score. Remember, though, it's still the third inning. There's a lot of ballgame still remaining.

In that, you actually have an advantage over many of us who can drift along in our delusions, never confronting the evils in the world around us and in our hearts. You been forced to confront reality early in the game; you've been stopped on your path to oblivion and are being offered opportunities and tools to forge a new way. That's a gift.

The critical steps to take are first, to know who is on your side, and second, to assemble the right team -- players you can trust who will tell you the unvarnished truth and stand with you in the box as you struggle to make your new path in the world.

The program is a great start - take advantage of these resources and people: they're on your side. Exercise the skills and new ways of thinking that you are learning. By working with and supporting each other, you can build a winning team.

Your mural: the biggest thing you have working for you is that you clearly see good and evil; you know there's a battle in our world, in our country, and you know which side you're on. In that, you have a leg up on most of your countrymen who wallow in moral confusion and self-loathing.

Now take this insight, this clarity of vision, and take the battle to the enemy within yourselves. You can beat those guys!

We're rooting for you...

Posted by civil truth at August 27, 2006 10:21 AM

Hi guys and gals:
You have obviously experienced alot of pain in your lives, and very depressing circumstances.
You have made mistakes, maybe hung out with the wrong crowd, but all that can change you for the better, if you choose to make that chenge.
Knowing right from wrong and good from evil is a good step in the right direction, but it is what you do with that knowledge that matters.
There will be many situations you can't control, and alot of unfairness, in your life, but if you choose to be good and do good, to become men and women of honor, work hard and never give up or quit, then you will succeed, and you will make good friends.
Humor will help you climb life's mountains, and keep your heart healthy. It's OK to have fun, and you can do it without drugs or booze, or a dangerous lifestyle.
Never trust anyone who offers to help you, if they expect you to do something wrong in return.
Drink up all the wisdom you can find in books and in counselors, teachers, coaches, and other older folks who care about you.
Seek out knowledge and wisdom, because the more you know, and the more you know how to use that knowledge, the better off you will be.
Help others when you can, and you will experience a joy that can't be described.
Be proud of your hard work, and achievements, but don't think too highly of yourself and become a braggert.
You can be proud and humble at the same time.
Never consider yourself as a perpetual victim, because perpetual victims are losers, and are not ready to let go and overcome the many battles you will face.
Your work of art is outstanding, and invokes alot of emotions in me, shrouded in truth and boldness.
You exhibit amazing talent and teamwork, and I'm impressed!
The best things in life aren't easy, but I am confident that you will adapt and overcome...if you want to.
God bless you all, as you embark on your journeys over unknown sea's.

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at August 28, 2006 02:52 AM

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