by Sr. Donna Liette, C.PP.S., PBMR
“Not today, Jude.” I am ashamed to say that this young kid was not one I had a great connection with, nor did I have much interest in reaching out to him. I believed the feelings were mutual. He seldom spoke to me, made no eye contact, was very distant. I did not trust him and I doubt he trusted me. Despite Father Kelly’s efforts to connect us, it wasn’t happening!
Summer came and Lemonte, one of our youth outreach workers, and I developed a one-hour, four-day program for our kids. They would get paid a small stipend for participating. Luckily, Jude could not participate because he was in summer school. However, two weeks later, his required summer courses were over and he graduated to High School. Here Jude comes to my desk asking to be in our program! Reluctantly, I welcomed him in. I won’t deny that he was a challenge, but as I listened to what he was saying and even more what he was not saying—hearing his fears of being rejected, his desire to have a future, to do a U-turn and have a life better than his past and present—I began to see who he really was when he dropped his mask. He wondered if his dreams would be fulfilled or if he would end up dead or in prison like other family members.
Weeks later: “Sister Donna, will you take me home?”
“Sure.” Few words were spoken but there was an understanding presence. As he jumped out of the car, looking in all directions to check that he would be safe, he gave me a look that I will never forget—connection!
Several weeks later, another ride home, feeling more comfortable, he asked if we could stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. “OK.” He got a dozen donut holes and gave me this one-second giggle-grunt! Satisfied!
Jude has his daily struggles, his ups and downs; life is not easy. Now it is September and all our kids are in need of school clothes, shoes, accompaniment on the journey. Our staff is on it, taking care that needs are met and kids are in school.
October comes and with it the ultimate test for “House-Arrest Grandma”— as I got called at times! Jude needed a ride home again, but on the way, even before we got in the car, he showed me a pair of cool gym shoes he said he needed to play basketball at school. Does his school have a basketball team? Rumor has it he isn’t going to school. While I agreed to providing for a $20-$30 haircut, these shoes were more costly than a haircut! He bargained with me, promising when he got off house-arrest he would help me wherever I need help. I do trust him. Trust has built because he has shown he is willing to work and to give as well as receive.
After doing some research about his school attendance and the existence of a basketball team at his school, I took Jude to the store. I knew I was being conned, but it was more about building the relationship than the money. I remembered how when I was young I wanted a cool little raincoat with a matching umbrella. I remembered that warm feeling when Daddy took me to get them. I wanted Jude to have that same feeling of unconditional love, of someone understanding how important even a want can be. The three store salespersons were equally as excited beyond the fact they made a sale. They even took a little off the price just to join the celebration!
On the way home, he tightly hugged his treasure and jumping out of the car, he checked his surroundings as usual and then said, “Thank you, Sister. I am SO happy!”
His glance, his words, his real name will be forever on my heart.
Now I look forward to Jude coming to the center after school – we simply look to the shoes and remember – I smile while Jude gives his little one-second giggle and we are connected!
Blessed are “those who were far off but have been brought very close through the Blood of Christ” (Ephesians: 2:13).
Thank you, Jude, for breaking into my heart and transforming me.