On Tyler Street we came across a boy who I now know was 9 years old. He was arguing with his little sister at the edge of a parking lot. As this child finished cussing out a baby girl, he flipped her the finger and stomped away. One of us, “The Shirts”, called over to scold the boy.
“That’s not how you treat your sister,” she said. He paid little attention and wandered across the street to a house with a yard full of toys and trash. Our Patrol continued up the block. The boy came back out of his house and called out to ask us if we had a lighter. “I can’t give you a lighter, because then I would be doing something bad,” responded our talker. “What do you want it for?” We had already turned back and now the boy came to us.
He showed in his hand a few firecrackers. Not little ones. “Those are M-80s,” said the talker.
He replied, “No, they just spin.” His sister continued playing in the parking lot behind us.
“How old are you, with those?”
The boy kind of stumbled his answer, “I’m nine.”
“Who’s watching you?” the talker asked of the child.
His eyes cast downward, “My Momma.”
“O.K.” There was no adult to be seen. The talker continued on, “You know you can come to us if you need help,” and she pointed around to us, The Shirts. The boy looked skeptical. “Yes, you can come to us,” she affirmed. His face softened. “Yes, you can, even though I’m a white girl.” The boy’s lip trembled, and his face showed that kindness was not part of his usual experience. “Come here.” The boy stepped toward our angel, who bent down to him. “Give me a hug.”
They hugged. “It's allright. You can come to us,” the talker repeated. “We’ll come back and make sure you’re O.K.” The boy nodded. He had decided that having us come back would be O.K. with him, too.
We continued on our Patrol. Maybe a half-hour later, we came back to look for the boy with more gunpowder than love in his life. He wasn’t around, and Tyler Street was quiet.