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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

My Weekend w/ Youth & Government

I spent Thurs, Fri. and Sat. at a Youth & Gov’t. conference in downtown Boston last week. Apparently I’m an advisor for a nearby high school’s delegation. After meeting the delegation (one junior, one sophomore, one frosh) on Monday, I was assigned to be the adult solely responsible for them later that week. Hmmmm. Thursday was spent in the statehouse; I sat in on several committees as they listened to their peers present bills ranging from using the death penalty for rapists to requiring every Mass. public school to have an AED on hand in case of someone undergoing cardiac arrest. There was even a bill calling for the Commonwealth (the state) to secede from the US, which actually passed into law. Others did not.

Now that you know a lil about Y&G, I can dig into the meat of this post. One of my delegates, let’s call him Roger (not his real name), is all about Y&G. His teacher told me he’s been doing it since his frosh year (now a junior), and he takes it very seriously. I don’t know Roger very well, but he’s a bit odd. He has a nervous tic, gets flustered when he tries to get his point across, and even talks to himself as he walks aimlessly. He was also chosen to serve on the prestigious committee at this year’s conference, which he was very excited about. The kid is brilliant, so smart it’s almost scary. Unfortunately, all his intellectual strengths are matched by his social weaknesses. The kid is weird, and everyone at the conference knew it. Remember that kid when you were in HS, the one who was different from everyone else, thus everyone knew him and teased him? That’s Roger. The scary thing is his teacher told me he’s “come a long way” since his frosh year, which makes me wonder what he was like two years ago. His parents are apparently weird, too, which doesn’t help.

A dance was held Friday nite to celebrate the last nite of the conference. I was disappointed to see my three delegates spend most of the nite in the “quiet room” interacting w/ very few people. The girls in my delegation are a bit antisocial, as well, though they don’t stand out as like Roger. They stick together, which is good, leaving Roger by himself most times. Later that nite, as I was climbing into bed, there was a knock on my hotel room door. It was another advisor, saying there was a situation w/ Roger. Although it was 1230am, I immediately lost my grogginess and became concerned I’d have to reprimand him for misbehaving. I barely know the kid! Then she told me the situation. Apparently another delegate told an advisor he was concerned Roger would kill himself that nite. It stemmed from a comment he made earlier in the day about finding him dead the next morning.

After discussing the situation w/ a few other advisors, we decided one of them and I would confront Roger in his room. We found him in the bathroom, shaking and writing fervently on a notepad. It was scary. We got him to come out of the bathroom, and then spoke w/ him, asked him if anything was bothering him, etc. The way he told us everything we wanted to hear was even scarier. We left after five min., but not before I noticed his phone was off the hook. He picked it up, said hello in the receiver, asked if anyone was there, then hung it up. It was so weird.

I met w/ the other advisors again, and we decided to call his parents (at 130am). There was no history on his medical form, but they informed us he’d been on antidepressants and once admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I was officially worried. Staying on the 18th floor (w/ a balcony in each room) did nothing to ease my concern. After we spoke w/ Roger’s parents, we returned to Roger’s room and watched as he spoke to his parents. His agitation w/ their conversation was disheartening. When he was finished, the head advisor spoke w/ his parents, who confirmed they were no longer worried after speaking w/ him. We advisors went to bed for four hours of sleep before the next morning’s meeting.

The next day, as I wrestled w/ everything that’d transpired the nite before, I realized just how awkward Roger is around others. Each time he stood to argue his point, a chuckle swept across the room, emanating from both other students and advisors. I also learned from another advisor that the nite before, other kids had been calling Roger's room and telling him he was gonna go crazy, he was losing his mind, etc.

Observing this boy for just a few days, it was heartbreaking just how difficult his life must be. It made me remember those awkward kids when I was in HS, and how I’m sure I didn’t do much to make their lives easier. Thinking of all the challenges Roger has yet to face (college, dating, co-workers) forced me to appreciate all that I have. Granted, I have very few friends here in my new town of Boston, I’m approaching priesthood when it comes to dating, and my personality is a bit too much for some people. But at least I’m accepted for who I am. I wonder if Roger will ever know what that’s like.


At 11:33 AM, Blogger Gregg M. Schmidt said...

J-Mazz, you did the right thing by confronting the situation. You should be proud of yourself and the actions that you took.

I have always (even as a kid) believed that you should respect everyone and treat everyone as if you wanted them to treat you. My Mom always instilled that in my two sisters and I.

Everybody is a little quirky in there own way - hopefully 'Rodger' realizes that soon.


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