If ever a group of people could use a bit of meditation, it is the young folks incarcerated at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. This is a cavernous structure trying awfully hard to be bright and modern. It boasts state of the art classrooms outfitted with smartboards and clean desks, but despite bright lights and shiny surfaces, there is barely a flutter of optimism anywhere. Despair, used-up chances, misunderstandings, power struggles sap whatever positive energy makes its way around this place. The mission statement for the Juvenile Detention Center does not mention meditation. That's too bad. The mission is to rehabilitate and that's why I'm here: to improve reading skills. I met the young man I agreed to teach to read today. He's seventeen and, at best, illiterate. He says he wants to learn to read so I ask him what he's interested in and what he'd like to read about. Football and basketball, he tells me. It's the standard answer and one I've heard too many times and as in the past, I plan to ignore it. I have an idea of what I'd like to read with him and here is where I rely on synchronicity and hope it will not betray me. The other day I was looking at children's books for a project I'm working on and came across an old favorite: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It's a Caldecott Award-winning book and the first children's picture book to feature a black child as its protagonist. It's a children's book but the language is literary and the illustrations poetic.
I will not be teaching meditation, but I will read a literary and beautiful book with a man/boy who has never had exposure to these delicate and lovely words and this will have to be enough because this is what there is.