Sympathy and understanding is hard to come by.
Society, as a whole, doesn’t tend to sympathize with people unless there are circumstances that really speak to that sympathetic nature – family illness, death, loss of home, car accidents, etc. There are circumstances to which people feel sympathetic.
Incarcerated juveniles put into the system for their poor choices…not one of those situations that garnishes a whole lot of sympathy.
Every day, I go to work with these kids. They all have a different story, a different attitude about their situation, their own struggles they face day after day. But these kids are funny, charismatic and full of so much life they haven’t quite figured out how to live a safe, legal way quite yet. Some days they drive me insane but overall, I fully enjoy working with them. And I have a great deal of sympathy for what they’ve been through.
No child should feel unwanted.
The idea for Army of Outlaws was fully inspired by the kids I work with. There are characters in the story that are strongly influenced by the kids. Not them to a “T”, different names used and whatnot, but my work kids definitely know which character was inspired by who.
Those kids have breathed life into my work and have truly kept me inspired.
And, from what I can tell, they love it. When I finish a chapter, I bring it to work with me and they get to read it over. I don’t know if I can accept full responsibility for what’s happened with a few of the students since. They’ve opened up about some of their struggles, what walls were up before seem to be somewhat down now. They’ve told me they’re writing stories -fiction, non-fiction, biographies – which is, hands down, the coolest thing that could come out of creating this story.
A lot of them want to tell their stories and I really think they should because what a lot of people don’t understand is that these kids truly are a product of their environment. Yes, they’ve made some pretty rotten choices and they’ll be the first (in most cases) to own up to these mistakes. But these kids haven’t had the opportunity to understand healthy relationships or develop healthy coping mechanisms.
When you start a job, you’re provided with training a majority of the time. Yes, there are those jobs you have to just hit the ground running on and hope for the best but for the most part, there’s on-the-job training, weeks worth in some cases. When I worked sales at Microsoft, we had a three week training period before we were put on the floor to start making sales.
As you develop through life, your parents/family/providers are your trainers, showing you what healthy looks like, putting strict rules and expectations in place to follow so that you understand where the lines are, when you can walk them, when you can cross over and when you should give those lines some respect with a little distance.
My parents might not think they did the best job raising us because really, not many parents feel like they’re winning EVER. But they sheltered us just enough, let us fail just enough and supported us through everything so no amount of moving, bad news, etc., made us feel like we couldn’t talk to them about anything or like we had to find unsafe outlets for our emotions.
Okay, that’s my view on it. My sister and brother might think differently but with as close are we are now, I think I speak for all of us.
The kids I work with, a majority of them, do not have that. There is no safe home, no adults they can trust, no rules to keep anyone in line and if there are rules, they’re enforced in a way that provokes negative reactions. They haven’t been provided with the tools to really know how to handle life in a way that’s productive, safe and will keep them out of the system.
I take opportunities through my writing to really highlight the parts of their characters I enjoy, parts that show them what I see when I look at them…not some delinquent who can’t do right but someone who’s tough, values honesty, has a great, unexpected sense of humor. Someone I’d trust in a zombie apocalypse. Whether or not they see that, I don’t know. But I truly hope they do.
The story isn’t all action and heroic behaviors. Good stories can not survive on adventure alone. Developing characters and giving them depth is key. I want readers to connect to these kids as much as I do and see them as something more than their label. And I want to the kids I work with to read it and understand their own self-worth.
Without them, Army of Outlaws would be nothing but an unrealized idea never put down on paper and these kids would never understand just how much they inspire every day.
Army of Outlaws can be found on Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=716833