Make the Boys Cry

1 02 2015

First time I met Big Joe my thoughts were something like this, “Good Lord, I must be at the wrong place! Should I pull out of Rock _nthe driveway before he sees me? Should I go get the police?” All I know is when I pulled in the drive of the big country house along the river there was Joe with a young boy probably about 15 and both were talking loud and excited. Then, “Slap!” Joe swung a big beefy open hand around that landed on the side of the boy’s head knocking him to the ground. “Don’t lie to me, don’t you ever lie to me, you understand?!!! Face flushed and tears flowing from the boy’s eyes he sobbed out the words, “I’m sorry Joe, I won’t do it again, I promise!” “Get up to your room until I call you!” And the young man was up running in the house as fast as he could; and I thought, “He made that boy cry.”

“Howdy, you the volunteer from the school?” I was hesitant to answer, but got out a weak “yes” to his question. The college I attended required that each student take part in some program that was a reach out to the community. The Ranch as I’ll call it in my story, was a place where boys came who had gotten into serious trouble, kind of a last chance to clean up their act or get sent to some reformatory. My first thought was “I think this would be a worthwhile organization to lend a hand to. My second though was, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?!!”

“Okay come on in the house and I’ll get you started with one of the boys.” I followed Joe up the steps thinking this guy’s built like a tank, all arms and shoulders and no neck.” When we got inside he yelled, “Jimmy, get down here!” Another boy about the same age as the first I saw shot down the stairs and stood almost at attention. Joe in a rough voice stated, “This fellow is going to help you with your homework, go get your schoolbooks.” With an almost inaudible voice this young one said, “Joe, I’m sorry, I forgot to bring my books home.” That big meaty hand shot forth again, but this time to grab under the arm and push this kid up against the wall. “You’re supposed to bring your books home no matter if you have homework or not, right?” Joe was growling out. I could tell he was in pain by the way Joe gripped him. He got out a very quiet, “Yes.” “You’ll eat in the kitchen alone tonight after everyone else does. Now get out and go clean in the barn and he gave him a hard shove; and he made the boy cry.

Joe and I headed into the kitchen where he poured us cups of coffee, then he began to talk to me in a voice calmer than any I heard him use up to that point. “All the boys that come to the Ranch have had serious run-ins with trouble, most to the point that they’re looking at a life of hate, anger and jail, all because someone didn’t care enough to teach them right and wrong; that becomes my job and I only have a short time in their lives to make a difference.” “Okay, Joe,” I responded. “You certainly know more than I do about what you’re doing, it just seems a little over the top, couldn’t you get in trouble for hitting these boys? He quickly responded, “Oh I have, member of the board of directors for the Ranch have been out here a couple of times. They ask me, “Joe, did you hit a boy, did you make him cry? And I say sure did and then add, but he never did the same stunt again that got him swatted in the first place! Other directors that were before me never lasted long because the let the boys run over them, that doesn’t do either of them any good. The director can’t lead because he can’t control and the boys go on through life not learning from their mistakes, until it’s too late.” His voice got a little softer; “I care for each of these guys more than that.” “Got a heck of a way to show it,” I thought but kept my mouth shut. He then called for another young man to bring his books and sit with me at the table before excusing himself and heading out to the barn. It wasn’t long before I heard a blood curdling scream coming from the barn. “What’s going on out there?” I said almost panicked. The lad sitting with me responded, “Jimmy’s alright, Joe’s probably tickling him or holding him upside down or something. After we get in trouble Joe always talks to us, then plays around to show he’s no longer mad.” “Do you like Joe?” I questioned. “Well none of us like it when he’s mad, but otherwise he’s great! He teaches us a lot of things and takes us places like we’re one big family.” Then the boy’s eyes got big. On Fridays if everyone has done what they’re supposed to, we have the big event!” “Big event, what’s that?” “After dinner we all have to sit real quiet until the last person finishes eating. Then Joe will say, “Okay, let’s go.” And we run into the living room pull all the furniture away from the middle of the room, Joe comes in, drops to his knees and we all gang tackle him!” Now I’m chuckling, “Wow, him against all you guys, isn’t that a little unfair?” “Unfair? We’ve never once pinned him! He throws us all over the room, you get banged up a little, but Joe doesn’t get too rough, it’s a riot!!”

I must have been so enthralled in the boy’s story I didn’t hear Joe come back in the house and head upstairs, for now I heard another boy crying. My young instructor in the methodology of Big Joe piped up, “That’s Jeff, the boy you saw him with when you first got here. Joe’s talking to him about what he did, why it was wrong and what could happen if he doesn’t learn to do right. Then he gives a big hug and tells you he loves you, we’ve all had that with Joe.”

A whole different picture began to emerge of the man I first thought would make a better guard on a prison chain gang than the director of a home for wayfaring boys. Joe believed if a boy learns to cry for the right reasons, you have the foundations of a true man. Just maybe there was method to his madness.

“Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility; for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible.” Thomas a Kempis

Now, I know that some of you do not agree with Joe’s ways and discipline, and that’s fine; like I said I was skeptical when I first saw him in action also. And had I encountered a bunch of kids terrified or angry with the way they were treated I might have kept that mindset. But what I found was a group of about a dozen delinquents who for the first time were getting good grades in school, doing work around the house, learning good behavior and habits they had never practiced before. Most of all I think they were leaning what it meant to be really loved, and they liked it!

The day came when Joe left the ranch, I don’t know if he finally wore out his welcome with the board or if this “Traveler of Rock Road” went to another destination that needed a person to give love the way he did. I do know that a group of the toughest boys that anyone ever tried to harness, stood in silence, as he hugged each and said loved them before he drove away, and he made the boys cry.

So do I have a biblical point to my story today? Well sure, didn’t you catch it?

Okay, here it is, see if you agree that my man Joe met the criteria given.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

For me, I got no argument; way to love ‘em, Joe!!
See you soon!


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One response

2 02 2015
gnitnub

Once again an excellent writing and story; Thank-You John !!

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