Enrolling the Guides

by A Guide
Virginia, USA

We all knew “Ray” from our hobby — theatre. He was a high school kid who worked hard on his acting, was great with younger kids, and sometimes walked or biked miles to and from rehearsals. At some level we knew he wasn’t a great student, that he was marked as a troublemaker by the school administration, and that his family wasn’t particularly supportive of him in school or his hobby.

But he was a good kid you could trust onstage and we liked him.

“Cindy” knew more. She knew that Ray wasn’t graduating from high school his senior year. He didn’t have enough credits, and Cindy knew he planned to find a job and get a GED certificate, sometime. She knew he was smarter than his academic record suggested and she knew many families in the theatre community cared about him.

So Cindy contacted the adults who cared about Ray and explained the underlying situation. She didn’t want Ray to fall through the cracks; she wanted us to help her get him back on track. After generating agreement from seven families, she really started to work.

One family took him in to live with them — they fed, housed, and parented him. Several families agreed to provide money to help out. Ray got clothing. He got a bank account — accompanied by someone to teach him about managing money and living on a budget. Another family took responsibility for cultural broadening. Cindy rode herd, guided, cajoled, and generally kept Ray’s guides on track.

Cindy convinced the school system to give this “troublemaker” one more chance, another year to complete high school. She then got Ray transferred to another school, away from those who’d already branded him a failure.

Cindy’s families were involved with Ray’s schooling. Parent-teacher conferences and oversight of homework were taken care of by proxy parents. Ray wondered why we were doing this for him. Each family was asked “Why?” more than once.

But that year Ray had his first birthday party, went on his first Easter egg hunt, and learned to drive. He struggled, he really struggled. And I think he learned that we’d told the truth when we said we did it because he was a good kid and we liked him.

Ray graduated from high school that year. All of his families were there, his biological family and all of the surrogate families. All were equally proud of him. Ray enrolled in community college and now plans on completing a four-year degree.

There are still rough spots. Authority figures bring out the worst in our boy and he’s likely to quit working on something if he decides it’s too hard. But this young man, who was about to leave school without a high school diploma, now believes in himself enough to believe he can finish college. He still has multiple resources for assistance.

All because Cindy cared enough, and refused to let a good kid fall through the cracks without trying to help.

Originally published as HeroicStories #559 on Oct 22, 2004

8 thoughts on “Enrolling the Guides”

  1. I love this story on many levels, not the least of which is the village that adopted and encouraged Ray. I do volunteer acting in community theaters and have seen the sense of family that thrives there. Theater is a great learning ground for teamwork and goal achievement. You work hard for weeks and, finally!, the miracle happens and you have a product to show off! I am so pleased that the magic of Community Theater reaches out to the lost, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the “failing.” Cindy and her team of surrogate families have earned gold stars, but I’m sure the pride they have in Ray’s successes are all they need. And may Ray continue to dream and achieve, drawing on the lessons learned from his theater families.

  2. All the surrogate families deserve special recognition for going above and beyond and “Cindy” deserves the biggest round of applause for seeing the need and being willing to coordinate a response and continue to make sure that “Ray” got what he needed. This is my favorite story, so far!

  3. This story really touched my heart, as I volunteer at a place where we are like family and encourage others to find their passions. A big ‘Well done!’ to the people who helped Ray, and to Ray himself. I smiled when I saw the original submission date. It was my 31st birthday, and now that I’m about to turn 43 I think of the people who helped me and thank them. I’d love an update on Ray as well.

  4. It’s probably my job to update this since I wrote it originally. We’re now separated by several thousand miles but stay in touch through the wonders of social media rather than rehearsals. Our boy has done fine these past 13 years. He did not finish college but he did join the Army reserves and thrived (so much for me thinking he would continue to have trouble with authority figures). He’s worked steadily since graduating, is happily married, and remains someone we’re proud of and happy to have in the extended family. One of the unexpected dividends from having given Ray the boost back then is that he ended up being an example to two of his younger siblings that change and success were possible, prompting them to change the directions of their own lives. For all of the reasons we liked and cared about him then, we feel the same way today.

    As for the rest of us… life has gone on. Cindy has retired but is still in the area. To this day I remain grateful that she *saw* what was happening and she *acted* to make a difference. It’s a regular reminder to me that while I may only be one man, that’s all anyone is. And sometimes that’s enough.

    • Thank you for sharing the latest. It’s great to know that Ray is doing well, and that there was a ripple effect through to his siblings. I’m sure that many people have benefited from working with him then and now. With your sharing of this wonderful story, you have created more ripples for others. I appreciate this!


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