I walked into the room angry because six of the boys did not come back to work after cashing their checks the other day. Now they were back.
I sat in a chair outside their semi-circle. A few of the boys tried to talk to me but I ignored them. "She’s mad," one of the boys said under his breath. I was glad they could see that I was upset.
In my head I was fussing, "Why do I continue to do this?"
Two of the boys suddenly got into a very intense and heated argument about who uses his tone (slang for gun) the most. They both rose to their feet with their fists balled up, sparring, ready to start hitting.
After they were eventually settled we began a conversation about what happened on Friday. Everyone had an excuse.
One of the boys said, "I had to see my probation officer." I asked if he could get a letter from his PO verifying that. He exploded. "You calling me a liar?! I ain’t lying. ’ll call my PO right now!"
"I wasn’t calling you a liar," I said.
"I will blow up this building," he said. "Let me get out of here before I flip out on her."
He stormed out of the door.
The entire room was silent until the church administrator knocked on the door. "Can I see you for a minute, Talia?" she asked.
She opened the napkin she held in her hand. "Look what I found," she said.
It was crack.
I took the napkin and went back into the room with the boys.
I asked them who the crack belonged to. "That’s yours, T. You’re holding it. If the police walked in here right now they would arrest you."
I flushed it down the toilet.
There are moments when I feel like this is not worth the headache and the heartache. But then I ask myself, my co-workers, and God, "If we don’t, then who will?"