A true story of a boy and his demons.
They say that though they can recognize conditions which could lead to a tornado, they cannot know with certainty when, where, or even if a tornado will occur.
And so we can do nothing but stare at the sky and wonder,
run for cover when it hits,
and then - when the air is still like there was no storm at all -
we begin to clean up the mess that was left in its wake.
The Tornado Child
“You know Fancy, we always see the same side of the moon. The moon rotates around the earth, and it also rotates on its own axis at the same rate. So we only ever have one view of the moon.”
I raised my eyebrows in amazement at Deshaun*, the beaming eleven year old who had spewed out more knowledge in the last forty minutes than I had ever heard come out of a child’s mouth. He was an overflowing wealth of facts about Greek gods, the solar system, or whatever happened to be the topic of discussion at the moment. I was impressed – he was a smart boy, and I told him that. But inside I was shaking my head in bewilderment.
Could this really be the boy we had to remove from camp?
Deshaun had begun camp earlier this fall, yet after a few weeks of the after school program at Camp Hope, our team had no choice but to remove him from the program. The Deshaun we met at the playground each day was clever, funny, and trusting. We couldn’t wait for him to join our program.However, each day nearly without fail, Deshaun would explode. There really is no better way to put it. From the outside it would appear as though he was having fun, getting along with others, and enjoying the program. Then, all of a sudden, he would erupt into a volcano of uncontrollable anger; a cacophony of wild punches, angry tears, and a downpour of vile curse words.
Try as we may have, there was no predicting when the next flash of rage would occur.
There was no telling what provoked, or inspired the anger.
He was calm – as though he had not a care in the world.
He was enraged – as though the whole universe was working against him.
He was still – as though there had not been a storm at all.
He was our tornado child.
In one circumstance, Deshaun admitted to a leader that coming to camp scared him, because he knew he would get angry, and once he was, he didn’t know how to stop it. She told him he was a brave child. Deshaun didn’t say anything.
Unfortunately, after several weeks of being in the after school program, our team had no choice but to remove Deshaun from Camp Hope. As much as it hurt us to do so, Deshaun’s bouts of fury prohibited Camp Hope from being the fun and – moreover - safe place we promised it to be for the rest of the kids. That wasn’t the last that we saw of Deshaun, though. We saw him outside of the school when we picked up the other children for camp, and around the community when we dropped them off. His bright, shining face greeted us often – so very unlike the boy we witnessed at camp one could have sworn it was someone else entirely.
I smiled. There really was nothing that warms one’s heart quite like the sound of laughter from a happy child. I watched Deshaun laugh as Daniel – one of my fellow interns – teased and entertained Deshaun. It was Friday, and we were picking up the kids outside the school as usual. Deshaun seemed particularly happy, and that fact alone was enough to brighten my day. I turned for a few minutes, from the joyful scene before me to talk with one of the girl’s in my group.
Then, the storm hit.
It was the shouts and cheers of children that made me turn, and when I did, I saw a picture so alarming it will forever be etched in my mind.
It was Deshaun, lying in the snow, one arm wrapped around the throat of a girl, and the other arm punching her relentlessly. His face was pure anger – a deeply rooted, vicious anger. It broke my heart. The girl – who I didn’t recognize – thrashed wildly in Deshaun’s grip to no avail, kicking her feet and throwing empty punches. As I ran through the snow towards the small crowd that had gathered, I heard Deshaun’s voice – clear, strong, and saturated with rage,
“I told you not to f*ck with me!”
I pushed past the throng of children who watched with a disgusting mix of horror and amusement. By this time, Daniel had also arrived at the scene, and together we managed to tear the children apart. Deshaun released his grip on her throat, and she struggled to catch her breath as I pulled her to her feet.
“I’m going to kill you!” she screamed, jabbing her finger at Deshaun as I pulled her away, my hands on her shoulders. “You better watch your back!” She was screaming, but her voice shook and I saw fear in her eyes.
“I think you should go home,” I said firmly. I turned to Deshaun. “You too, Deshaun, time to go home.”
Deshaun’s jaw was set firmly, but his eyes darted with uncertainty. He tore himself from Daniel’s grip and stalked towards home.
I watched him go, and as I did, my heart cried. In a matter of minutes, the tornado had come and go, leaving nothing but two shaking, broken children quivering in its wake.
The Stallion of our Soul
I hope as you read this story, your heart cried as mine did. I hope your heart cried at the injustice of a child of only eleven being the slave of an emotion which controls his life. But I also hope that as you read this, you realized we’re all not so different from Deshaun.
Each of us is the rider of a wild, wayward stallion to which we are strapped yet seem to have no control.
For Deshaun, it is called Anger. Perhaps for you it is called Jealousy.
We each have our own demons, each one with a different name. We each have our own stallions, with spirits we cannot tame.
"I do not really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate...I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway!"
- Romans 7: 15-19 -
As I read this verse, I applaud Paul for being so real. I would easily argue that there is not a verse in the entire Bible as relatable as this one. Have we not all felt this way? We know what we’re supposed to do, we just don’t do it. Moreover, we know and we want to do what is right, but we still fail to do it. It is like there is some kink in the communication that connects our spirit to our flesh, and the message is lost in delivery.
"Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Romans 7:24-25 -
Who delivers us through Christ our Lord. What a refreshing conclusion that Paul came to. We are rescued. As Christians we are not looking for a reason to sin, but a rescue. And we have found it in Jesus Christ. We are not slaves to our demons, we are not riders strapped onto wild stallions.
We are rescued.
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves."
- Colossians 1:13 -
*Name has been changed to protect identity
As always, donations are very needed and very appreciated in order to reach at-risk children like Deshaun. Your donations allow me to reach these kids spiritually, academically, and socially. If you feel led to give, please click the link below. Honestly, every penny counts!