This is my last post in my series on Victor. I’m pleased to end it with the news that after nearly two years Victor and his family have moved out of the shelter and into their new home – a government subsidized house in east LA. To say that they are happy is an understatement. But it is also an adjustment to leave the shelter, especially after having lived there for nearly two years.
I, too, have had to say my goodbyes, as I’ve grown attached to the people who run the place. My experience of the shelter and the people who live on the block has been positive.
So, on my last visit to tutor Victor at the shelter, when I was moderately hassled by a gang of young men congregating outside the shelter, I thought nothing of it.
“It saddens me to see our young men act that way,” the office manager of the shelter said as she raced to unlock the doors and let me in.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said, thinking that their trash-talking was all bluster.
“It’s not nothing,” she said gravely.
I wondered what the social dynamic was that I was oblivious to.
The next week, Victor and I met for the first time at a local library near the shelter, which we deemed to be a good midway point between our two houses. Unfortunately, while I was in the library, my spare tire (hub, wheel and all) was stolen.
Perhaps the office managers at the shelter who used to plant their bodies in the doorways and watch me walk to my car after each tutoring session were providing me more protection that I had appreciated.
The next week, as I drove home from tutoring Victor at a new library in a better neighborhood, I heard on the radio that after a year of undercover work, the police had just made a major drug related gang bust in the blocks around Victor’s former shelter.
I was, of course, relieved that Victor was no longer living there. He had not only left a dangerous neighborhood unharmed, but had probably, given how well-run the shelter was, even benefited from living in it.
Now Victor has to face a another danger – one which is in some ways more insidious because there are no programs (at least that I know of), or government subsidies, or charity balls that are meant to address the danger of low expectations. Or to put it another way, if Victor is going to excel, he is going to have to learn to motivate himself. It may be a lot to ask an eight year old to be wholly responsible for getting his homework done, or to learn how to excel at school but that is the situation Victor is in.
I’ve thought a lot about how I might help Victor in this new phase in his life I’ve decided to tutor him until the end of the school year and then, during the summer, instead of tutoring him, take him on a series of educational field trips. My intent is to expose him to new worlds and the myriad ways people have turned their passion into accomplishments of beauty and value.
When I signed up to tutor Victor a year and a half ago, I quickly realized that my “Just One Hour” a week commitment was really about committing to “just one kid.” I have been fortunate to have this kid in my life and am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to make this commitment. So this series on Victor comes to an end, but my relationship with him and his family continues indefinitely. (This Adventures in the Reading Kingdom series is now archived here.)
If you have some ideas on how I might help Victor please let me know.