• Belinda Lane

Story: “I Have to Take It Like a Man!”

April 16, 2021

These are words that should never come out of a nine (9) years old mouth. While living in another city and state I worked for the Dept. of Social Services (DSS) in the 90s. The Administrators of the DSS want us to become more involved with the children in some communities we served. The goal was to start at the elementary school level. One of the elementary schools in a neighborhood which was deemed high risk (meaning a lot of gang activity) would be our pilot school. The program was named the ‘Lunch Buddy’ program. Once a week, workers would go to the school and bring lunch. The school chose a student to be DSS lunch buddy for the school year.

At the time I was already working with the DSS on a Food Stamp Program for the Homeless population and working with the YWCA program Safe House for Women of Domestic. For my own mental health, I decided not to join another program. Three (3) of the members on my team joined the program, one being my supervisor. Some stories they would share on returning from the lunch would be humorous and other stories as we listened bought silence to the unit for the rest of the day. We already knew many of the communities were in crisis. The program opened the door for us to see inside these communities.

On one occasion my supervisor came in and we could hear her crying uncontrollably in her office. We all stopped working and just waited for her to calm down. She finally came out on to the unit and took a chair and sit down. Her story…that her lunch buddy who was a nine (9) years old boy. While they were in the cafeteria having lunch two (2) police officer walked in and were directed to where she and her lunch buddy sat. The little boy was ordered to stand and put his hands behind his back and then handcuffed by one of the police officers. My supervisor said, “I lost it”, meaning a teacher had to come over and try to calm her down. Next she said something which I never have forgotten. The little boy looked at her and said, “I Have to Take It Like a Man!” This little boy hadn’t even reached the double digits in his age. I will never understand why the school officials didn’t come get the boy and take him to the office. Was this a scare tactic for the other student (who had no choice of the neighborhood their parents lived in)?

Needless to say, our unit worked in silence for the rest of the day. Our lives have been in crisis for hundreds of years and continue. When will this season end for us as a people? When will we be able to put our hand over our heart and sincerely recite:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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