I watched the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", on a recommendation from my very good friend Beth who is not only an inspirational World History teacher, but a beautiful yogi. She recommended this movie because she saw it and then showed it in her class at school. This amazing movie began with the quote: Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. John Betjeman.
This movie is a study in human nature, a study in perception, a study in perspectives, and a study in compassion-- The Buddha once stated that we live in between 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, this movie allows you to remember that children have the purest perception, and this movie is a study in the above mentioned quote-- before the dark hour of reason grows.
I talked of this movie in the jail, I asked the kids if they remembered at what point in their lives, they changed from everything is bright, shiney, new and fun to life is crap and I must with every fiber of my being fight tooth and nail. The perspectives of these kids is truly remarkable, like Bruno the main character in the movie, every one of these kids began their childhood full of life, full of wonder, everyone want to be an explorer. One girl told me that it was her mom that changed her, it was her mom, who made her at 6 take care of her baby brother-- get up with him every night when he would cry and want a bottle-- another girl told me that she used to love to play with dolls any kind of doll, because all she wanted to do was be a mama--because at that moment in her life her mom was a superhero to her-- and then one day her mama drank too much and began to hit her for not cleaning the house the right way and get her up at 3 in the morning to clean the house--this beautiful flower told me that she would just wait 20 minutes cuz her mom would pass out and then she could go back to bed. Another girl said everything changed for her the day her new step-dad moved in and began "tucking" her in at night, it changed because when she told her mom, her mom said be a big girl and don't make trouble--I don't have to work anymore. Another girl said, I still play with dolls, I've cut their hair and painted them red with black eyeliner--it pisses off my parents--when I get out of here, I'm going to nail them to the wall of my room to remind me of how much of my childhood was so perfect.
My boys classes were mesmerized by the story of Bruno and his friend Schmal who would visit each other on the "farm". The boys related to each of the boys on a level that the girls would not let them get to. One boy stated, that when he was in kindergarten he would make friends in like 2 seconds, it didn't matter who they were or where he was, he could make a 1000 friends in one day--I guess at 6 no one picks on you for not being as smart as them or for not having the right clothes, at 6 you just want to play with a stick and be a Ninja Turtle. Another boy said, I remember playing with sticks, I used to love that, I could play with sticks for the whole day--wow I haven't thought about that for about 10 years. Another boy said, Jen, i remember the day the darkness of reason came to me.....my dad asked me to get him a beer, and I became smart enough to know that that meant that later, I would get my ass kicked for not going to bed on time, the thing is I was afraid because my dad smokes and at 7 I didn't know if he would fall asleep with the cigarette and kill us all--I don't think I slept that whole year--funny thing, I'm in here for stealing cigarettes, that's a perspective to ponder huh??
I see Bruno and Schmal in everyone of these kids, their eyes tell the same story of longing for friendship and longing for their parents acceptance. I see these kids long to be kids to stop growing up and have someone tell them it's going to be ok, deep down inside you are OK! On both days we had really quiet practices of rememberance--a rememberance of the kid like quality in everyone, and a rememberance of their deep radiance of heart.
As each one of the kids told their story, each story haunted me for days, is jail the right place for them....at what point do you stop punishing the child for the bad parenting they've recieved, at what point do you recognize that the parents of these kids who've allowed their children to be victimized and broken are the problem.
Thank you Beth for being my friend, and reminding me that everyday we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with---every day we have the ability to see the good!!!
On my last day of teaching this week, on the shelf in the corner of the room was the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", as I showed it to the kids who are set to watch it over this weekend--I'm so excited to see what they thought, how they felt, and who they feel represents them and who they want to become after seeing this amazing movie.