Monday, May 12, 2014

I interviewed a 13-year-old gangster

 Image from

I was a facilitator in a youth camp last weekend.  There was this boy whom almost everybody complained of.  The girls reported that at bedtime, he would open their dormitory door and throw pillows at them.  The boys said he'll do it when one of them is near the door so he could conveniently place the blame on them.  He would call his fellow campers names and would play practical jokes on them.  In short, he was the camp's bully.

Before I spoke to him, I sensed that he was going through something and that he was simply acting out.  Still, I was surprised at what I later find out.

The talk
I was sitting in the sofa with the boys and asking each one of them how the camp was when he joined in and  threw a question at me, "We were taught that we have to listen.  What does that mean?" "Well, everybody around us tells us one thing or another- our parents say this, our teachers advise that and our friends say something different all together.  Sometimes, we forget to listen to the most important person- our self.", I replied.

"You know, Ate (older sister), I have decided to listen to this (pointing to his heart)."  He, then started to narrate his story.  He told me of his 13-year-old friend who recently died because of frat war.  He knew that friend from a dance group and then later as one of the leaders of a gang.  His friend decided to leave his group and change his ways.  However, one day, while he was walking on the road with 2 other buddies, they came across their previous opponents- a whole batallion of them.  His other friends ran but he tripped and was beaten to death.

"Why did they kill him when he's no longer part of a gang? He was trying to change!", he reasoned.  His 13-year-old self could not understand why it had to happen.  I simply listened.

His story
He went on to say that he used to be part of a similar group too.  "I joined because of brotherhood", he explained. "Later, I observed that we were mere puppets of the founder.  He urged us to fight other gangs and taught us all sorts of vices.  My friend's death shook me up to all these nonsense."

With all the courage he can muster, he declared, "I will finish what my friend wasn't able to finish. I will change!"

He related that he had been changing for 6 months now.  It wasn't easy as he had to break his ties with his previous crew and he has to be on guard because of his gangs' previous enemies.

I know he will make it. He has that look of determination on his face.

What now
When the camp finished, we gave feedback to the children's caregivers.  The boy's lola (grandmother) received all the complaints before I got to talk to her. I tried to squeeze in a short meeting with her before they head off.  I did not tell her the whole story but only what she needs to know, "Your apo (grandchild) is bent on changing his ways. In fact, he's been working on himself for a long time- 6 months now. Whatever, you see right now are remnants of the habits he has acquired. He still is a work in progress and he needs all the help and support that he can get".

My lesson
I realized that it is so easy to be critical of another person.  It is so easy to point out another's defect.  What is hard to recognize is the effort that the soul is exerting.  More often than not, I do not know where that one is coming from and what is really going on.  What is visible is a just the tip of the iceberg.  So, from now on, I resolved to never ever judge.    

                                                                 video from easymeditation

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