Tuesday, May 6, 2008



By Raymond M. Sheppard

Many years ago, while employed at a Boys and Girls Club in Halifax Nova Scotia, I met a young 14 year old that was defiant and considered by many at the club and in the community, as a person going no where fast. Although Jashaun as I will call him, was disruptive, would steal, lie, curse and swear and fight, there was another side that few had ever taken the time to see.

When I got the chance to spend some time on a one-to-one basis, I saw something totally different. I saw a scared and confused 14-year-old boy who did not have a sense of who he was, nor did he seem to have a sense of where he fit in. I was told many times, that I was a fool not to see this young person for the true evil he had inside of him and that I would regret treating him as someone with respect.

As a Program Worker, it was my responsible to teach wrestling, plan and implement exchange trips with other clubs based on friendly competition involving basketball, swimming, and floor hockey and of course wrestling.

As time went on Jashaun would come looking for me and would talk openly about how he grew up with his father in and out of his life, his mother's alcohol abuse and having to take care of his little brother, a responsible he was not ready for nor equipped for. He mentioned of having gone without food for two days while his mother was out drinking and how he had to fry up potatoes skins that had been discarded for his baby brother.

Over the course of six months I noticed a changed in Jashaun, he seemed more confident, relaxed, patient and open. I was shocked to learn that this young person knew about Shakespare, Monet, King Kenyatta, Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and a wealth of other information.

One day I was setting in the office area when the telephone rang, no one else was around, so I decided to answer it. The person on the other end was a teacher from Richmond School across the street, she asked to speak to a Mr. Sheppard; I responded you're speaking to him. Mr. Sheppard, the teacher said, Jashaun requested that I contact you to discuss a few things, can you come over for a few minutes, I responded in the affirmative. I wasn't sure what to expect as I darted across the street to the school, my immediate thought was what has gone wrong now.

After arriving at the school and checking in at the office, I was directed to the gymnasium and again I thought my God what has happened. I entered the gym nervously; to my surprise an awards ceremony was being held and Jashaun was getting an award for a poem he had written and for protecting another individual from being bullied. I was surprised, shocked and very relieved. Jashaun looked over from where he was standing and smiled; in his eyes I could see thankfulness and joy. Although I did not have children of my own at that time, I was as proud as any father could be and recently when my son came home with straight A's on his report card, I had a flashback to that day.

Many things have happened between then and now including Jashaun graduating high school with honors and going on to university. Jashaun is now a lawyer residing in Ontario Canada, and although we do not have much contact, I realize that in everyone's life, at some point, an inner fire is ignited with a flame if directed, that flame can rekindle the inner spirit.

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