|Good Times cast.|
What I didn't know was that the show was set in a high rise housing project in Chicago.I knew the Evans family had it rough, but they loved each other and JJ was funny, so I loved it.
All I ever knew of housing projects was what I saw on television. With me being white bread from the burbs, TV was all I had to go off of. As I grew up, television showed me crack dens and drug houses, but when I heard about housing projects, I still thought of the Evans family. Like everything else on TV, I naively assumed it was an exaggeration.
And then I moved back to Cleveland.
For my job, I work with inner city youth. Not directly, but I do have contact with the kids. Every day, I see the statistics. Far less than half of the kids going to Cleveland Public Schools are graduating. The poverty and unemployment rates are staggering.
There have been occasions that I have dropped kids off and I have seen where they live. It looks rough on the outside, but still...I had the vision of the Evans family. Good Times.
And then I had to help one of the kids take some stuff into the house.
I pulled into the parking lot and briefly wondered if I would come back to it on cinder blocks. Walking up to the door, there were a few guys giving us the glare.Rough looking guys hanging out, staring. Looking us up and down like fresh meat. The kid I was walking with instantly stopped talking as we got closer. I took the cue from the kid and shut up. We walked in silence to the door. I fully admit, I got a little nervous. This was a rough neighborhood and I was sticking out like a palm tree in the arctic. The scene from Blindside went through my head...where Sandra Bullock tries to hop of the car and he tells her to stay put and lock the doors.
I had to be brave and cool though, because this is where the kid lives. If the kid can live there, I can at least go to the door without peeing myself.
When we got to the door, I looked around and noticed how everything was in disrepair around the complex. I doubted there was a handyman on site. Broken doors. Torn out screens. The lunchroom scene from Lean on Me went through my head. Morgan Freeman demanded the cage in the cafeteria be torn down. You treat kids like animals, they will behave like animals. The kid opened the door and lucky for me I kept my sunglasses on because what I saw horrified me. The kid looked back and said they were going to run upstairs, but I knew I was being watched. Would I show my shock? Would I think less of the kid? I cracked a joke and the kid went upstairs. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.
I lifted my glasses and my vision was blurry from the tears forming. Outside of the movies, I have never seen anything so awful. Roaches crawled around my shoes. The walls were crumbling. The curtains were a bed sheet pinned to the wall. It smelled of desperation, weed and hopelessness. The walls and floors were covered in years of filth and grime. I thought to myself that it would take weeks to clean all of the misery away, if it could be cleaned away.
The kid came back down the stairs and off we went. but I can't stop thinking about that visit.
We have kids in this city that are living in deplorable conditions, wondering if they will get dinner. I get cranky when we go to lunch late. I can't imagine being hungry, truly hungry and not being able to have a meal.
With their minds filled with a daily search for basic needs, algebra will always take a back seat.