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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Invisible children through neglect, indifference

“Not only can I not recall my experiences in previous lives, sometimes I can’t even remember what I did yesterday.”
-- The Dalai Lama

It’s 5:10 and the sun is shining and the kids are outside with a football and no coats. It’s a Charlie Brown and Snoopy day. A kids' comic strip weather-and-play day. Kids singing in the parking lot and jumping rope. Peaceful, dare I say it, almost serene. And I feel like an old turtle basking in the sun and tasting the breeze on my skin.

This morning at home, Ernie was chasing the rainbows made from our rainbow maker and Wilbur was chasing the squirrels in the backyard, that is until a chickadee faced him down, and he jumped and bolted and tore up the back stairs to hide. Wilbur is afraid of the wind and even the shadows he makes on the sidewalks. Makes me wonder about his past; he can be as skittish as a colt but he craves love. Will can never get enough of being handled and petted while Ern (the cat) hates being picked up.

Beth, my daughter, bought a baby (a real baby) carrier. It hangs on her chest and Ern seems to like it. It’s strange how animals react to bad beginnings and mistreatment. One can’t get enough hands-on attention and the other (who was bottle-fed by us) will only tolerate so much touching. I must admit that Ernie is improving; he will be 5 in June and he meets me at the door and gives me head-butts and rubs against my legs when I come home. But the big love in his life has always been our dogs. He pursues them relentlessly. I am sure there is some character identity confusion there. And Will, well he comes every time you call “kitty-kitty.” Remember the Thomas Jefferson quote, “I cannot live without my books”? Well, I do buy into that statement, but “I cannot live without animals holds even more true for me.

And kids? Well we are all sentient beings here and I learn lessons from both species, and yes we are all on this planet together. Love is where you find it and if you are really looking it surrounds you and holds you gently in its embrace. Sorry I got a little mushy here but today I am worried and needy. We only have enough cash to get us through March and April. The next major infusion of money comes in June. That leaves the month of May just standing there, unprotected and destitute so to speak.

I do have a special meeting on Friday which sounds interesting and I am asking every reader to send me vibes of abundance on Friday at around 1 p.m. And, yes, a new church came around just now and really wants to partner with us. I really hope some of these offers work out. I am oh so tired of people’s false efforts and promises. I do try to be realistic but I want so badly for things to move ahead in a good way that I fall right in with whomever is building castles in the air at my expense.

Now here is a little aside about our school system. Cell phones: Did you know that in Schenectady, students can bring their phones to school? In some cases right into the classroom. Here they can be found busily texting away. When I ask my kids to give up their phones during a 45 minute ballet class, they actually whine “but I need it.” These little pieces of techno effluvia never leave their fingers or their cars. 24/7 they are connected only to mind-numbing pieces of flash trash and see or hear absolutely nothing else.

Parents say “Oh I want to know where my child is.” Well then give them an instrument that just rings 911 or a parent/guardian number. And in an emergency every parent has my phone number and I carry messages. In case you are wondering about who my informant is, he is a probation officer who works daily in the school system.

We also did a little survey, just off the cuff, of surrounding schools and found that most, including Albany’s did not allow phones in the classroom. And colleges -- get caught talking or texting during class and u get an “F” for that day. I don’t know about community colleges; as the media say “ this call was not returned in time for this broadcast” (err-blog).


I am now looking at consequences. How can a young man with a multiple arrest record including time spent (years, in fact) in a federal prison get 49 hours in community service after getting caught with weed? Small amount but more than just a personal usage amount. I do admit that he was a consistent and amazing worker and we both would have benefitted with more hours. I believe part of his penalty should have been to get a job and the court should have followed through on this.

The young man in question is truly brilliant, makes a wonderful presence and could be an asset to any business. Instead he will probably go back to low-level dealing and be caught again and again. Did I mention he was picked up on Albany street, right in that high selling and buying section that I railed about in a prior blog?

Now on to something of higher consequence. I am sure you are all aware of the trial of another young man, a boy really, still a teen for the double shooting on Schenectady Street (another location I constantly get on my high horse about). Two boys were shot as they ran and things finally ended at Jerry Burrell Park. But you had to read this week’s paper (Gazette) to see the final outcome, which had never been talked or even alluded to previously. The older boy will always have trouble walking and the younger, who was shot in the head, has some permanent incapacity.

I just happened to have this teen (the shooter) for community service during the weeks leading up to this crime. He never showed. I would see him often on the streets and once gave him a ride to Wal-Mart but he never came to the site to work on his hours. I called and called and called those who were responsible for placing him at my facility. I must have made over 20 phone calls and left messages every single time because his case worker never picked up the phone. Nor did she pick up the phone to return my desperate rants.

I know this boy, I knew him and his brothers very well. He needed real supervision. I did not have the power to have him picked up or counseled or even placed in a temporary shelter. He was gang– crazy.

Again I cry, where is CPS? Where is the tough love (emphasis on love) these kids need? Here is QUEST, an agency of last resort running out of money and yet being exorciated for working with “those kids.” Very few agencies offer community service to these lost boys because it is a major effort and there is little backup from the city. I should have been able to call in my concerns and work together with the city’s resources. And again we were all left spitting in the wind. Can’t share, you are not kin, blah, blah, blah. And so little Johnny got his gun and shot 2 boys in the back and head over a smirk. Here is this sad beknighted young man standing up in court saying; “nobody spoke, but as they (the victims) were walking away I happened to see a smirk on - - face. So I shot him in the back and kept on shooting."

Yes that’s right, people’s lives destroyed over a smirk. There’s that stupid word "respect" again. The law of the streets “respect” -- look at me funny and I will shoot you. And to really put the lid on things this boy stands up and in front of his family, who by the way were right there to support and cheer him on, saying, “Yes, I’d do it again.” I am sure he thought this would make him a man in his family's eyes.

Even if he believed what he said, why would he say it in a courtroom? He had to know it would work against him in the eyes of the judge. Which I’m sure it did. But is he a hero in the eyes of his peers and family? I don’t know but I do know he will be forgotten by everyone in 6 months or so as he rots in prison and his anger grows like an evil weed. Here’s where we need to work together -- jobs and counseling and work sites and accountability. Especially by the agencies involved. I believe these agencies must hold partial blame for what happened here.

But truly the scary part is nothing changes. I remember United Way saying to me, “Your application keeps saying, gangs this and gangs that, we are simply not interested in funding juveniles in trouble, especially not preventive policies.” Is that it, really? Kids born into poverty and drugs (many born addicted) and misery. Do we not give them at least a chance at a meaningful life? They become what they are through neglect and indifference. They are invisible children. They become visible through the law of the streets. They become men through their gangs and guns and anger. They see themselves as heroes protecting their families and their girls. Respect, and I’ll say it again, Respect. That is the world they live by and the boundaries of their lives. Respect -- also the word many die by.

Go to a funeral of one of these gang-bangers. I have. The gang colors are flying along with the weed and alcohol. The videos of evil and stupid deeds are running and everyone is telling their story, representing. Their gang is their family and their friend. Their be all and end all. Their pathway to manhood and 15 minutes of fame, followed by an eternity of yet again being invisible and forgotten. Our soldiers of the streets. That’s how they see themselves. I let down my tears and weep for their loss.

The statement at the end of this blog tells it all. The house and home of QUEST. This is a refuge for myself and so many people. Please don’t let us close we all will be poorer for its loss.

“Our house has a heart and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies, it is of us, and we are in its confidence, and live in its grace and in the peace of its benediction… We cannot enter it unmoved.”
-- Mark Twain

“Unless someone like you cares a lot
Things are not going to get better

"The Lorax" -- Dr. Suess

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