Saturday, November 12, 2011

For a Living

We can't save everyone. But we try. A teacher, a real teacher will never stop trying until...until...we're out of the picture. Even then, some students never leave us alone. Like that kid in your neighborhood, the one you catch yourself wondering about from time to time, it's fascinating to speculate how someone turned out.
If it's any consolation, that turning out takes a lifetime for most. Others, however, make their presence felt through a newspaper, an obituary, a rumor, and even a Facebook page. Such was the case when I chanced to see a picture of Allen Woodard recently. My first reaction was he's alive, I think. Allen lived for the military. Specifically the U.S. Marines. Probably because there was no father in his life, and his mom was a teacher's aid at my old school, I came to take an interest in Allen. He liked to talk about world politics and when the U.S. got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, he couldn't wait to get over there.
His mom was troubled by Allen's eagerness to taste combat. Like most everyone in his life, she too hoped his military career wouldn't be cut short by a roadside bomb and a military funeral at 19. That didn't happen. That's the good news. The only good news. It's one thing to wear a full dress Marine uniform at age 10 and quite another to act out the fantasies of one obsessed with war. Allen is now home and living in the Southwest. His Facebook page, which I ambled upon when his picture and name appeared in the margin with the number of friends we have in common, reveals how he turned out. I'm happy he is gainfully employed. As a bouncer for a bar, he can live his life of authority and rules, keeping his community safe from violent types. I'm sure he gets all the free beer he can handle and still perform his duties. What stands out on this page is Allen's description of what he does (or did)for a living. He's unabashedly not afraid to say that his life skill is killing people...for the good ol' USA. It really says that. I shit you not.
I always wondered if he had a conscience. Still do. I had hoped we could have done more for Allen. But deep inside I realize he was long gone before he came through my classroom door. Still, I secretly hope there is still time for his mind to grow a bit. I noticed another thing too. Many of the kids in his graduating class keep in touch through Facebook. When I get a friend request from one and click on the OK link, I notice that they usually average from 25-50 former high school classmates. Allen's high school friends number less that ten. But what a ten. Within that number are some of the most talented, thoughtful, empathetic, intelligent kids in the class. Maybe they thought like I thought? Maybe it's not too late? Maybe it never is. Maybe?

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