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Kathy’s problem

I had to take a week off from working with Kathy because I was enrolled in a “Storytelling” class at the Campbell Folk Art School. (More about that later). I arrived on Monday for our lesson a bit early, because I wanted to make some new flash cards for her to take home. I planned to introduce new material, to make up for the lost week. But she didn’t show up at 11:00 as expected. 

I wasn’t too concerned. I thought, with a week off, she might be out of sync or have forgotten. Still, I didn’t want to leave the college without being absolutely sure she wasn’t going to come. So I called her house. 

Her husband answered the phone. I could barely understand him because his accent and diction was so bad, but I heard enough for him to tell me Kathy was not on her way. He was supposed to have called me, but he’d forgotten.

He explained.  Kathy is in jail.

He said she didn’t do anything wrong – yet she broke her probation. I didn’t ask for particulars (considering I couldn’t understand them even if he gave them to me.) I asked when she would be released. He said maybe next week. But then again, they might just keep her in there for five years!

I hung up. Then, I cried.

I was so upset. I know this has nothing to do with me, but Kathy has been honest with her “problem” and she seemed so determined to work on reading and to change her life. And I have been her cheerleader in this campaign. I took a week off, and she immediately slipped back into her bad habits. Worse yet, I had no idea what was happening. I wish I’d been there for her.

The directors of the literacy program just shrugged when I explained what was happening, and said, “This sort of thing happens with those sorts of people.” It didn’t phase them.

They asked me if I wanted a new student, someone without problems. I’m afraid I don’t believe anyone who can’t read a word can be considered “without problems. Besides which, that is like asking a child if they want a new puppy moments after their beloved dog has been squished under the wheel of a car. Ummm… NO! I want MY student. I want to help her. I want to change her life. I want to see her read – OUT from behind bars, preferably.

I don’t need a student who is “easy” to teach. I am not afraid of facing all the fallout that comes with illiteracy.  And not following through with a commitment doesn’t sit well with me. I told the women in the office that Kathy was upfront with me about her involvement with Meth, that she told me all about her probation, and that I didn’t care. I knew she was battling this ugly business from the start, and if anything, I admire her desire to read all the more knowing that her lifestyle (and wanting to change it) is one of the reasons she was willing to make the effort.

When they saw how bothered I was, and how badly I felt, they asked me if I wanted them to call the jail and make arrangements so I could visit and tutor her there.They have some pull, they explained.

Now, we are talking! I am going to wait a few days to see if this is a short term thing, and if she isn’t out by Monday, I’m going down there to talk to the sheriff (or whatever they call these country authorities).  I’ll drag my damn flashcards to the county jail if I have to to get the job done. Five years? Well, if that were to be the case, I’ll have her reading Faulkner before I’m done.  

In the meantime, I can’t stop thinking about Kathy, her ten year old son, and what it must be to live her life of disadvantage. All things considered, I’m not surprised she turns to drugs. Who’s to say what I would do, given such dismal opportunities from birth on.  

I guess something like this would put a lot of people off, but it gears me up. I would have made a great warrior, had I lived in a time where a real battle ensued. Now, if nothing else, I’d like to think I am a good friend. So, I’m gonna hang in there as long as I can, flashcards in the back pocket of my cheerleading suit .

Anyway, I’ll write more updates as they occur.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

One response »

  1. I must say that Ginny has a heart of gold to help people less fortunate than herself.

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