Message in the mischief
Just over a week ago, I heard the story of all stories. Breaking news on Thursday evening was that a little boy had been abandoned at the Norman Manley International Airport by his parents. The tale goes (allegedly as he told it) that he and his parents were returning to Miami having vacationed in Jamaica. The boy went to use the bathroom, and upon returning from his potty break, his parents were nowhere to be found. They had upped and left him, taking his passport and everything.
Airport staff, onlookers, local media, everyone got concerned. Who abandons an innocent eight-year-old? It was a sad, real-life Macaulay Culkin remake.
The Gleaner ran his photograph online and a desperate plea to find his parents or anyone that knew them.
And then the plan fell apart. Turns out little man was actually a runaway from a local children's home. There never was a flight to Miami, no abandoning parents, no American nationality. Nada. Just a well-crafted story and a convincing Yankee accent. Oh, and it turns out he was 12, not eight.
Were it not for the media coverage, I think the plan could have worked. I could see Airport Authority putting him on a flight to Florida and delivering him in the hands of United States (US) authorities. They'd have searched flight manifests and not found the name he gave, and they would be left with no choice but to enlist him in a US children's home and assign him a Social Security number and a brand new identity. Mr Man's mission would be accomplished. He'd have become a legitimised citizen of the land of milk and honey. It truly was brilliant.
The natural inclination is to punish him for running away and telling fibs, but deception aside, it takes a magnificent mind to think up a plan like that ... especially at 12 years old.
His little mind is clearly capable of feats of imagination unmatched by most fully grown adults. This potential needs moulding. Left to his own devices, it can be assumed that this boy has started a lifelong pattern of intricate lying and cheating, which cannot end well.
But his is a life and a talent that can be changed. I see the makings of an award-winning actor, a best-selling story teller; actually he'd make the perfect lawyer. This is the child that needs Edna Manley College, JCDC, a debating club. And he needs someone with enough love and patience to see past his problem and through to his potential.
There is a message in the mischief of many of our young people. And all too often we focus on what they did wrong as opposed to what they are trying to tell us or how we can make it better. We move quickly to punishment (often out of frustration) as opposed to real reformation.
This young boy will become something, and that something is heavily dependent on the intervention he gets now. Do we punish him and send him to bed without any supper for him to hatch a bigger, more diabolical plan, or do we harness his talent for good. Sure, there must be consequences for his actions, but after the consequences, what then?
He may have missed the plane, but let's not miss the opportunity to help him soar.