Dear Mr. Zimmerman

Dear Mr. Zimmerman,

I never thought I would be a kid person. I was  never one of those children that pretended to be a mother. I didn’t dream of weddings, plan baby names, and I rarely even babysat actual children. I was the youngest child and I spent more time being coddled than I ever spent thinking about parenting.

How I became a parent is a story much too long for this letter (but a great one) so I’ll just say it was very surprising. The way I started working with children on a daily basis resulted from reasons that are much easier to explain. I needed money. I found myself with a college degree in sociology and no realistic ideas of how to use it. I  worked with young adults in a college setting that although were technically over the age of 18 had  no business calling themselves adults. I realized that just because the law declares a person competent to make decisions at a certain age the body doesn’t always cooperate.  I made up for my lack of babysitting with a new found job watching hundreds of “adult” children.

I went on, again in a search for money, to act as a tutor for refugee children who were new to this country. I experienced how strangely different these children were from the ones I’d met and yet how strikingly familiar too. They played different games, spoke different languages, cracked different jokes but they still just wanted a friend, a smile and some sugar. I voyaged as far as Kenya to test this theory out and still found it to be true. I believe that quest for sugar was what brought Trayvon Martin into your life, was it not?

Onward in my quest for a career and now supporting my own two kids I became a public librarian. First a teen specialist who spent hours every day entertaining the unpleasable. Listening to gossip. Squelching adrenaline. Curbing flirtations. Mediating scuffles. It wasn’t always me they wanted a smile from or to call their friend, but I never met a single one that didn’t except my free offerings of sugar. Eventually I went on to work with younger children in the library setting but I always miss the spontaneity and humor of teens.

For the last eight years of my life not a day has gone by that I haven’t worked closely with children in some capacity. Although I don’t consider myself anywhere near an expert on children (does such a thing truly exist?!) I do consider myself someone who has come a long way in learning about them. I’ve learned that they often times don’t make sense. We want to be able to rationalize and justify every thing they do when the reality is most the time they don’t even know why they behave a certain way. I’ve learned that they do stupid things. Really stupid things. Unfathomable stupid things. Yet, I didn’t really need to be around kids to know this to be true. I should have known this from my own experience growing up and the long list of stupidity that accompanied it. I’ve also learned that they are dealt unbelievable burdens. Even those with the best of lives struggle with challenges daily that I wouldn’t ever want to relive. Can you remember how difficult it was to be your best self before you really even knew who “you” were? I remember.

I’m sure you know that there are scientific reasons why kids act in these ways. There are parts of their brains that simply put just don’t function yet. They are impulsive and illogical. They need a friend to guide them. They are emotional and disruptive. They need a smile to calm them. They are restless and impatient. They need to walk to the gas station to burn off some energy and refuel with some sugar. It’s amazing that any of us make it to adulthood! If it weren’t for the grace of adults who remember how difficult the journey was, none of us would be here.

The best part of working with kids is that I’ve discovered wrapped under layers of rotten peels, they house a sweetness that can’t be found anywhere else. A bright outlook on life and enough optimism to fill their otherwise  empty heads. They bask in naivety and it has never looked more beautiful.

Mr. Zimmerman, I understand that you are going to be a free man now. I wanted to write to you about my experience with children and what I’ve learned from them because I gather that you have never had the privilege to work with children? I assume that you have never had a child cry on your shoulder after being bullied at school. Or had one confide in you their deepest secret. I’m guessing you have forgotten how difficult it is to make that transition between childhood and adulthood and how many mistakes must be made along the way. Do you remember that we learn best from failure? I think you have forgotten those adults who showed you grace during your journey.

I am hoping in your freedom you can remember my advice about what children really need. Those simple concepts of a smile, a friend and some sugar. I am hoping that you can because I am terrified of what has happened due to your lack of understanding these basic ideas about kids. Myself, and half of our nation, are haunted by how far off you were in your tactics. How you approached a child in the rain who you thought might be up to no good. How you were wrong, but there is no way to take back your discretion. How you could have asked him if he needed a ride. How that would have been the friendly thing to do. How you could have smiled knowing it would have calmed his nerves. How you gave him nothing close to a smile. How you could have seen the sugar stashed in his hand and known his motives were pure. How instead you shot him.

How he will never get a chance to offer back the grace we all need while growing up. How you messed up the one chance you had. How we’ve never stopped crying since.

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Photo licensed through Creative Commons: http://i.images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-2644671002-original/Countries_of_the_World/Africa/Heart_of_an_Orphan.jpg

2 comments

  • I appreciate a lot of your views on some things I have read here on your blog.

    However it appears that you don’t have all of your facts straight on who George or Trayvon are.

    Here are a few facts that you seem to have missed:
    – George works with kids. I doubt that the problem that happened that day had anything to do with his understanding of kids or not
    – Trayvon was not an innocent young child as he was portrayed. While I agree that we need to do our best to help youth, if a young person is violent then they need to be treated as an adult. Trayvon was violent, physically assaulting George first and therefore was treated as an adult by George who was defending himself. Even if George should have stayed in the car and not pursued on foot, Trayvon was completely in the wrong to physically beat George’s and against the curb.
    – Trayvon was acting very suspicious. If someone who looked suspicious and was acting strange was in my neighborhood I would be very concerned as well. If I had been neighborhood watch I might have followed the person to make sure they weren’t breaking into my neighbors homes

    As a parent and concerned citizen I am quite saddened that people like yourself have been so deceived by the news media.

    Your use of the word child to describe this full-grown young man indicates that you did not know much about the facts in this case and instead chose to listen to what the news fed you.

    In addition to many different news sources, I watched the entire trial that is available on YouTube and have come to the conclusion that the regular news media flat out lied to us to make this seem like it was all George and that Trayvon was just an innocent victim.

    The question that I have is this: if Trayvon and killed George by beating his head into the curb and George had no way of defending himself would we have had the same sympathy for George that we are displaying for Trayvon?

    I am disheartened by posts like yours that display this false narrative that was fed to us.

    I encourage you to go watch the trial videos and get your facts straight and then write a post in response to this.

    Like

    • Hi George. Thanks for taking the time to read through my blogs and offering feedback. I do understand this is a story that very clearly had two sides. It really wasn’t my intention to represent either one of them, but instead to highlight my own story that was woven through the blog (about my experience working with children.) The purpose of my blog is to leave a lasting, online journal for my children. Sometimes I write directly to them, sometimes I write about current events. The message I always try to convey is love. I don’t think I talked about any facts in this blog, did I? I mentioned Trayvon was on a quest for sugar. I do believe that was found to be true? I mentioned that I assumed Mr. Zimmerman never worked with children, and you have pointed out that I was wrong in that assumption. I’m glad that you brought that up and corrected me. As you can tell from the date, this was something written 8 months ago, and I’m sure a lot has been revealed since then. I don’t update my blogs because I don’t pretend that they are research pieces, or even journalism. They are truly just a memory for my children. Thanks for writing.

      Like

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