Mackenzie is one of the street children who comes to the feeding program in Delmas 75 where I help on Monday afternoons. He's probably 11 years old and is hands-down the most impossible child I have ever worked with. He's stubborn, he's defiant, he's moody, he's sharp-tempered, he's a bully, he's simply out of control. Short of beating him (and frankly, I'm not much bigger or stronger than he, so I don't forsee that going well) there isn't much we can do to discipline him. Our only hope for the past year has been to overwhelm him with love and surround him with people who can show him better examples of who he can be.
Last Monday, Mackenzie ran up to me and tried to yank the bracelet off my wrist. Instinctively, I pulled my hand up and away and when he made a second lunge for the bracelet, he missed and punched me in the eye. He ran off and I was left with an aching, watering eye.
A little while later, I saw him steal a ball from a smaller child. Chasing him down is counterproductive so I yelled to him that I would be sitting on the stairs, waiting for him to come give me the ball. I sat down, eye still watering, and waited. Amazingly, within 2 minutes, he brought me the ball and sat quietly beside me. "How are you doing, Kez?" he asked me.
"I'm doing great, Mackenzie," I responded. "My only problem is that my eye hurts a lot because a boy punched me today."
His smile faded. "That was me, wasn't it?" he asked.
To my surprise, Mackenzie reached up and started to gently rub my eye lid. I sat there, both eyes shut, slightly on edge, expecting the real Mackenzie to come back at any moment. His hand was still on my eye, so I peeked with the other and saw an incredible thing: Mackenzie, trouble-maker extraordinaire, had his head bowed and was praying for my eye!!
When he was done, he rubbed the eye a little more, then looked up at me with bright eyes and asked, "How does it feel now?"
"Better, Mackenzie. A million times better!"