Years ago, this blog was often dominated by one kid. Wilmer. He was the perfect success story. Until he wasn’t. He ran away from Proniño in 2011 and at first, it just seemed silly. He did very well in school. Was our resident artist. Had lots of friends. Was the perfect blend of mischievous and silly. I was confident that he would spend one night on the street, realize that he just can’t hack this whole street kid gig, and come home. But he didn’t.
This was the first time that God and I had some knock down, drag out battles. (Me doing most of the knocking and dragging, of course.) I prayed and prayed and prayed. Searched and searched. Couldn’t find him. Head tilt. Months later, I drew in my journal. The theme of my drawing was that this is out of my hands. That there is nothing I can do. Next day? Found him. But don’t you get your hopes up. He wouldn’t leave the street. The child I had looked for the most was the first one I let get out of my car and walk back to his cardboard bed.
The prayers and the pleas continued. I would read books about pastors praying for a basketball team and two 6’8 guys would walk through the office door and I would be filled with rage that basketball players will fall from the sky, but Wilmer was still on the street. I was both praying and doing. That should have been the complete package.
Then came the summer of 2012. Things were getting desperate. A year on the street. He was 15. His window of opportunity to return was closing. It was now or never. I found him and for the first time since his days in Proniño, he was him. Bright eyed. Silly. With it. He wouldn’t come back, but we decided to get together later that day. Hours later. So high I could barely understand him. Belligerent. “This is my choice, Jenny! I never think about anything and will never change!” That night, after conversations with a few different people, some things fell into place in this head of mine.
- It’s difficult to make good decisions when you’re under the influence of crack 80% of the time.
- He’s still a child and still at an age where adults sometimes need to make important decisions because he doesn’t have the maturity to make good ones on his own.
So, the next day, I did what I thought I’d never do. I went to the Teletubbies. (The kids’ loving nickname for the police.) It seemed that he got into the back of the police truck quite willingly. I found out later that they whispered in his ear “If you run, we’ll shoot you on the spot.” After a series of unfortunate events, he was sitting in the back of their truck with me following; his glare burning a hole in my forehead the entire way to Proniño.
But he was back! He was struggling, but he was back. His anger at me subsided little by little each day and was replaced by an actual desire to make it. He said that the only way he could resist his all consuming desire to get high was to stay busy and threw himself into every work opportunity. Could this really be happening?
A month later, he was gone. And I considered getting a job in an office, or a bookstore or anywhere that didn’t involve any emotional entanglement whatsoever. Finding him the next time, I knew that things had changed. My hope balloon had been deflated and I resigned myself to a relationship of finding him passed out, waking him up, hearing his demand for food, eating, saying goodbye.
The only thing that really amazed me was the strength of the human body. Over the next two and a half years, I only saw him a handful of times. He lived off of drugs and food periodically tossed his way. How was his heart still beating? What gave him the will to keep living? I resigned myself to the probability that one day I’d be hanging out with the kids in Galerias and instead of “oh, he was here earlier. Maybe yesterday” I would hear them say “Wilmer? Oh, yeah, he died last month.”
Then, in February, my phone rang….