One of the youths under my charge this summer is a boy named Kyle.
Kyle was born "normal" (as people here explain it to me), but was injured when falling off of a truck at the age of 7. His brain was damaged in the accident and his physical development was stunted as well. Now he speaks with a severe stutter, although is able to carry on a conversation. He rides his bike with reckless abandon and attempts dangerous stunts daily, and is for all intents and purposes a child in a young man's body. Sometimes relating to him is like singing in different keys.
Lately he has been particularly challenging to connect with. When he is with church friends, he will speak Christian words and churchy language and talk of his struggles (always with mention of how he has overcome them). But when he is with non-church-friends or his parents, he is different.
And lately he has been pulling away from the church, so I try to involve him. He comes to the office, but all he wants to do is play video games (not one of my favorites, with the exception of DDR - and that is not much of an option with his bad leg). We go to lunch, but he just wants me to drive him places to cash his checks, spend his checks, and look at video games. I go to his house, and he wants to play video games or make me watch him jump over trash cans. What is more, lately he has been increasingly irritable and angry at church friends whenever we correct him on anything, however small it may be.
But a couple of weeks ago, we had a breakthrough.
I needed to pick up a P.A. system for camp, and Kyle had been over the day before showing me videos of people beatboxing with harmonicas on Youtube. He wanted to get one to put him on the track of becoming the next Rahzel, and so I called him and asked if he wanted to come with me to the guitar store.
There, he plinked on all of the keyboards and we marveled together at the odd sounds he would produce. He thumped the drums and thankfully did not bother the guitars. We looked at harmonicas together and each picked one out. I bought a cheap nine-buck harp in G, knowing that he would buy a nicer one, and he picked out one in D that costs thirty dollars. We left with our purchases and the P.A. system, both giddy to try them out.
We turned on the radio while I drove, rolled the windows down, and tried to play along. When we got notes right, we celebrated by nodding with the beat. We ate lunch and he played for the table next to ours, infuriating our waiter. After, we stopped at a video game store.
Taking him home, he told me of his hopes for camp and his desire to quit smoking and make serious changes from his bad habits. I told him we'd work on it together, and we played our harmonicas.
And even though we were playing in different keys, we were happy.
10 months ago