Arroz con gandules (Rice with pigeon peas)
Quesadillas with refried beans, corn and microgreens
Salsa verde and guacamole
Tulsi mint lemonade (“The Honeymooner”)
We arrived to detention to find two new boys, S. and Q., had joined P. It’s always interesting to see how the dynamic changes with the arrival of new folks into the program, and how they have different ways of protecting themselves in the face of the unknown. Many boys start the program withdrawn and sullen, and it takes time to allow them to slowly emerge from their protective shells. Other boys are boisterous and agitated, often cracking jokes and pulling the focus away from the lesson. This is how Q. was in this week’s class. He was distracted—off talking to the adults or whispering something comical to P. as we were going over the lesson. At one point, I discovered that he secretly squirted hot sauce into the guacamole that was specially made for S., who doesn’t like spicy food.
I enjoy these shifts in energy as they arise, even if they are disruptive. They feel like waves, flowing in and out, sometimes forceful, sometimes peaceful. It is a reminder to me of what our job really is—to be consistent, to keep showing up, to be a lighthouse. At the end of class, P. told Jan that he was going to be moving to another facility this week. He expressed his gratitude for the class and lit up when Jan told him what a great job he had done in Cultivating Change and the writing workshop. I thought of his first class with us only a few weeks ago, and how lost he had seemed, adrift in the rough sea of his emotions. Here he was just a short time later learning to navigate those troubled waters.
We moved onto the shelter, where P. was celebrating her 13th birthday, and we had a special meal planned. The girls would have steak for the quesadillas and chocolate zucchini cupcakes for dessert. “Practice makes progress.” A. said it as she was grilling the chipotle lime beef that was going into their quesadillas. She was doing an excellent job, and the meat had perfect grill marks, like what you would expect in a steak house. That phrase resonated with me, because it felt like something I needed to hear in that moment, and particularly because I hoped it meant that A. was allowing herself the grace and patience she deserved to find her way back to healthy and nurturing habits. It isn’t really fair to say that practice makes perfect, and we can stop ourselves from ever taking that first step if we think that perfection is the only acceptable outcome. But if we know that each step makes progress, and that progress is the work of a lifetime, then it makes that first step easier to take. Even if it feels like you have to take that first step anew each morning on your road to sobriety, or forgiveness, or self love.
The meal was delicious and we finished by singing “Happy Birthday” as we brought out the cupcakes. After P. blew out the candles, we went around the table to share our wishes for her for the upcoming year. A. wished that P. would have the strength and courage to stay sober and make good decisions. Jan said that by taking the steps to change, P. will be the positive role model for her younger sister that she always hoped she could be. Practice makes progress.