Quite a number of years ago,
I worked in a childrens hospital,
in the Accident and Emergency department,
for a short time,
whilst training to be a nurse.
It was in a part of inner city Dublin,
surrounded by flats.
Many would consider it,
the heart and soul of Dublin.
The local children treated the Department,
as if it were their own playground.
playing chase, and hide and seek.
Many of the children,
aged mainly from three years to about eleven,
came from challenging backgrounds.
They were old before their time,
and streets ahead,
of those of us reared in a gentler environment.
These children treated the nurses of A and E,
as if we were their parents.
They came to us crying,
if they fell or hurt themselves.
Although it was often,
under very different circumstances,
to the type of falls my children had.
They used to cycle bikes,
holding onto the back of trucks.
Or climb railings or walls,
of considerable heights.
Then in they would come,
skipping all the queues,
to whoever happened to be their favourite nurse.
We would bathe their wounds,
and put plasters on their cuts,
then search their pockets,
return what should not be there,
and off out they would go once more.
I had a few favourite rogues.
They were cheeky and bold,
but there was something lovely there too.
I remember one particular boy,
who was about ten.
He was a bit unkempt looking,
and had a face full of freckles.
He fancied himself a man,
and took a bit of managing.
He always had a pack following him,
who I must admit were very light fingered.
One day I was dressing a nasty wound,
which he had got a week previously.
The curtains were not pulled,
so we could keep an eye on him.
I was chatting to my friend,
whilst attending to him.
I was in a very bad mood,
as for the second day in a row,
I had been given a ticket,
on my parked car,
for not displaying my car tax.
That meant a fine of €50.
(my tax disc had blown out the window. Honestly!)
I was obviously annoyed,
and quite vocal.
My young friend was also vocal.
“I can’t fe*ken believe the ba*tard gave you a ticket”,
and “Jaysus that’s the f*cken pits”,
were among his comments.
Then he said, “Which car is yours?”.
Now there was no way I was telling him that,
knowing that if I annoyed him one day,
God knows what state I might find my car in after work.
So I told him to butt out.
That I would go to the guards (Irish police),
and they would let me off the fine.
You can only imagine his answers,
when I mentioned the guards!
Eventually he was all patched up,
and off he went.
As I left later that evening,
it was dark.
I admit I cautiously looked around,
but there was no sign of him.
The following day,
I was working 8am to 5pm.
It was dark as I was leaving,
and I was as always a little bit nervous,
walking to my car in the dark.
As I rounded the corner I saw him.
Perched up on the roof of my car,
with his feet dangling over the front windscreen.
I could see he did not seem to have any company,
which was a big relief.
I walked purposely towards him,
and quite aggressively,
told him to get off my car.
He climbed off the car,
looked at me and winked.
I told him not to sit on it again,
and that I would be giving him,
no money for “minding” my car.
He looked at me,
and seemed upset. Genuinely upset,
as he said to me,
“Jaysus, you’re me favourite nurse,
I was just makin sure you got no feckin ticket today!”.
I laughed when he said that,
and began to relax.
Then he told me that he had been there most of the day,
and the “lads” were laughing at him,
but he didn’t care.
“Cos nurse, those feckers know,
that I mean business,
and you got no fe*kin ticket today.
In his own way,
he was charming.
At ten years of age,
he was not like other children I was used to.
And he was very genuinely,
looking after me.
I have often wondered about him since.
The odds were stacked against him.
The truancy officer,
was constantly on his case.
It didn’t cost him a thought,
to rob whatever he saw.
And yet I knew he really and truly,
genuinely cared for me.
Underneath the rough lad,
much older than his years,
was a young boy of ten.
As the weeks went by,
I got to know this young boy so well.
I could see,
he was a victim of birth.
A Mum at home,
with a lot of issues.
a Dad he’d never know.
A child who never got a “normal” education,
and who more than likely,
was in court by the age of thirteen.
A child who came to me,
for the kind of care his mum was not giving him.
I have often looked at my own children,
this young boy hadn’t got a chance!
There was so much potential there,
what became of it?
Not everyone who does wrong is bad.
Maybe some just never had a chance.
photo credit: Monosnaps via photopin cc
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photo credit: .v1ctor Casale. via photopin cc
33 thoughts on “Born to be bad?”
So true. And it happens too often.
Yes who knows what they could have made of their life under better circumstances.
I am crying for this young boy. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose our circumstances in this life. The cards seemed stacked against some before they take their first breath. It is those who have had the roughest life who seem to thrive in the face of it. I look at my life and really can grasp the verse in the Bible that says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
I know the young boy was blessed to have you to run to and to also “protect.” I love the way he was protecting you from another ticket. He had sweetness in him because you dared to love him and take care of him while training to be the good nurse that I know you were. I can only hope that there were more like you in his life.
He was not the most popular of characters as he was a lot of trouble, but I suppose because he favoured me I was able to deal with him better, as he was more responsive. He was a bit of a rough diamond though.
I am not overly hopeful that he stayed out of jail though.
Beautiful Tric. I love this story. If you know his name you should see if he’s on Facebook! 😉
My first position after college was as a program manager at facility for juveniles who had committed felonies. I felt the same you do, about many of those children. And I think of them often. I hope your little car sitting friend did well for himself.
I’m not overly hopeful, but maybe. At ten years of age he was already what we would call a “hard man”. I cannot remember his name.
Maybe he came good but the signs were not there. If you lived over here you might have looked after him!
Oh my! Well, I have to say, that when we had those young men in the facility it was often the first structure, regular meals, and being taken care of, that many of them ever had. Sadly, returning ‘home’ often meant returning to that ‘hard man’ living. So very sad.
I used to work with emotionally disturbed teens. This was touching. They taught me a great deal.
I really enjoyed this gang of kids. They were nothing to do with the hospital, yet so much part of it.
I miss working with the challenging kids.
Just not the challenging adults 🙂
Ha ha. Afraid they are everywhere! 🙂
this is so very beautiful tric, and one of my favorite things you have ever posted. you are so understanding and kind and i only wish his circumstances could have been the same .
Wow such a kind comment. Thanks a million. He was as we’d say “A real beaut!”. but he did mind my car and what I did not say was it was January and freezing, and this boy never wore a coat.
I do hope he came good but I have my doubts.
You speak to my heart on this one:).. Reminds me of my dear boy who is forever in trouble and making a bad rap for himself!! He has a heart of gold though. So glad you saw through to the truth:)
When I read your post about your wee boy I remembered this divil and a few more. There is just something there you can’t define about them, which draws us to them.
I’m sure your little fella will be a great young fella some day.
What a great story!
Thank you. I really enjoyed remembering it. Glad you liked it.
I know a man who was much like this boy. After a few hard lessons and years, his life took a turn for the better. It’s so true, not everyone who is labelled bad, nor good, is. And just as life changes, so can we. Kindness, like yours makes a big difference.
It is lovely to think maybe after a time he came good. Thank you.
So very true and unfair
With some it’s hard to believe that there’s a heart under all the BS. Most have a story that would make a grown man cry. Hopefully he was befriended by those who can set him on the right path.
How sweet that he cared for your car!
I am sure this little boy had a big heart which sadly was used to being broken.
I didn’t say in my post that it was Winter and freezing. He never wore a coat. Sitting on my car was not a pleasant way to spend his day!
Aw, poor little fellow. So many sad stories, so few who will wade into the mess. Thanks for your kindness to the kid.
I enjoy your writing. The many faces of life leaves one sad.
Thank you. Glad you enjoy reading. I’ll have to write a more cheerful post soon! I hope you are doing okay.
As a secondary school teacher, the kids that were naughty but nice are the ones I remember. There was one 13 year old that I used to give a hard time, he was so disorganised I used to phone his mother with his coursework deadlines. When I was leaving to go to another school, he wailed that I was his favourite teacher. I was gobsmacked. What do you mean – I asked, I give you such a hard time. “but you care Miss” came the reply. I was speechless.
Lovely post as always Tric and am thinking of your friend’s son, do keep us posted xx
I was a bit of a challenge at school too. I had a wonderful Geography teacher who was very tough, having taught in an inner city Dublin school. He totally took me in hand. I can remember bunking off one day and he caught me. He brought me back to school, but instead of reporting me, he made me go to him every wednesday,just before the class I often bunked off, to tell him I was on my way there! He also brought me to the teacher and told her how much I loved her class and that in future I’d never be missing!
I remember him so very fondly although he did scupper most of my plans.
Beautiful and earth-shatteringly sad. It reminds me of every child I’ve ever taught whose background did little to support their characters. And still so capable of loving and being loved if given the chance.
Adults often have a sin to answer for with children and yet there are adults like you who redeem a child’s faith in humanity.They see through all the BS. And know where there is care.
Thank you for sharing such a story. I am sad and yet glad. There is hope for all kids. I hope.x
I think there are many fantastic people and teachers out there helping, but sometimes the odds are stacked against the children, with poor education and being reared in such trying circumstances.
As quite a few have said some do manage to stay on the right track and others manage to return to it. I really enjoyed working alongside these kids and maybe if I had not nursed I might have qualified in something which would have allowed me work with them, They were such characters.
Lovely post, reminds me of a boy I was at primary school with. Adults and teachers used to talk about him being the youngest of a family of unruly boys and they all expected him to follow the “wrong” path but I could never understand why they couldn’t see the softness in his heart and the kindness in his eyes… if they only looked. He had a face full of freckles too …. last I heard he had followed the path of least resistance and was at the start of a very long prison sentence. I always wonder what would have happened if people had not just assumed his destiny!
I remember when I was with Childline they made the point that our families box us as children and it takes a lifetime to get out of that box. I think it is so sad, as I look at my own kids and remember those I met who hadn’t a chance.
I’m not saying none of mine will be in prison, but I hope not! 🙂