"Jason" was sitting on the front porch with all of his worldly belongings in two garbage bags beside him, taking a drag off a smoke he had bummed earlier. I knew that things were obviously not going well for him. As part of the Uturn Personal Development Plan (PDP), he had to either go to school or work full time. Neither seemed to be happening. Jason was a seventeen year old who came from a difficult childhood but didn't fit within the child welfare system. He had been living at Uturn for about three months but hadn't paid any of his rent and was just in the process of giving up.
“What do you want me to do?” he said. “I've dropped off resumes for two weeks and I can't even get an interview.”
“Well, maybe if you washed your hair you'd get a better response.” I quipped eloquently.
“If they don't want me for who I am, they can ...” you get the idea.
I believe his thought sums up the majority of our youths' perspective. This is who I am, you don't know me, don't judge me, I must have value... right?
I knew some of Jason's dreams, one of which was to make movies. I asked him what he would do if he was shooting a scene where the actor was supposed to be a cop but showed up in a fireman's uniform. He said he would get him to change or get a different actor. We talked about how working at a job is similar to acting. You show up in character, on time, neatly dressed, good personal hygiene and a smile on your face. You look after the customer the way the script calls for it and you do that till the time clock says “Cut!”
I will never forget the look on his face when he brought me the last of his back rent and said “There, I'm all caught up.” This was not just back rent, this was victory.
After our “acting” talk he said, “I can do that!”, I gave him some of my “old man clothes” to wear and got him an interview with a hotel here in town. He worked at that job till he moved to Winnipeg. He got a job in the movie business and took some directing classes. Last I heard, he had made four or five documentaries and two short films, one that had been nominated for an award.
It's not that I said anything out of the ordinary or particularly wise, it was that I knew him, who he was and how God had created him uniquely to be him. I knew that he was indeed valuable.