I am currently in Hampton, Virginia with a number of other Campus Crusade staff members as we seek to help develop spiritual movements on the campuses and communities of this region. After spending the morning at Hampton University, a prominent HBCU in southeastern Virginia, several of us spent the afternoon at a local Boys & Girls Club.
If you are not familiar with them, Boys & Girls Clubs provide a safe place for kids to do school work, participate in recreational activities and receive mentoring from caring adults. I spent a few hours with a couple dozen young African American boys and helped some of them with their homework, played some games and talked a little about life.
As I looked upon these young, intelligent, energetic kids, I couldn't help but think what life would be like for them as they entered into their teen years and into adulthood. Even as I was with them I prayed silently that God would steer them from the temptations they were likely to face, protect them from a justice system that often targets them and to provide positive, godly role models in their lives.
I thought back to a post that I wrote about a couple years ago about an article by Phil Jackson, a minister in Chicago who works with at-risk youth, on the current state of young black males in the United States. He states some of the sobering realities facing black boys but offers tangible, positive solutions. You can read his article here.
I spent some time today with Jalen, a precocious third grader who likes to play football and spend time with his friends. I had seen him being a little too aggressive with some of the other kids and sat down next to him to have a conversation. As we began to talk, he immediately started to settle down. I asked him about his interests, about his family life and his dreams for the future.
I learned that his mom had him when she was 15 and that his dad really wasn't part of his life. Which was fine with Jalen because his dad has beaten him. His mom works two jobs and is taking online classes to provide for him and he spends several hours a day at the Boys & Girls Club since there is no one at home to watch him while his mom's at work.
I affirmed how much his mom cares about him since she works so hard to take care of him and even let him know how much God loves him. He began to ask me about my family and my kids and I encouraged him as a reader and in his plans to go to college. He begged me to play several games of Foosball and pool with him and we had a fun time together. I'm glad that there are some men that spend some time with him after school each day and I hope that he is able to realize his potential. So many bright young kids get picked off by the streets and I hope Jalen isn't one of them.