I spent the weekend at a retreat for teens that focused on The Hunger Games and the role of YA (young adult) dystopian texts in our current world. And while it was a bit exhausting to prepare for it, it was exhilarating to be at it. As anyone who likes working with teens will tell you, teens are filled with the kind of energy that when around a collective body of them, you can’t help but absorb some of it. If they were modern pop-culture vampires, we’d all get contact sparkles from them.
My resume reads like I am precisely the sort of person who likes working with teens. All but one job I’ve had since turning 19 has involved working with teens. And like most of my peers, I do not work with teens because of some need to revisit my own teen experiences and years. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
I work with teens because they give me hope.
The hospital is quiet. I suppose it is a good thing because noise in the ICU means different things than other places. And yet the room is loud. Loud with noises no parent should ever listen to as machines keep him alive.
He isn’t my child. And yet he is. He is mine in the sense that there is a spot in my heart with his name on it.
I once told a parent that children may be other people’s babies but once they come into my room they are my kids. My room’s desks may have been replaced by couches but it is still true.
The last time I saw this frail boy of a man, he was smiling. That same smile I will always think of long after memories of pink hair hanging in his eyes fade away. The smile will stay.
But will he? Because this time, now, he isn’t smiling. This time, he hangs in the balance.