Kay G’s weak legs carried him into the center of the circle. He shot a look around him. The students hollered. Were they cheering for him? He spied Charmaine, tucked into the throng of onlookers. His breath caught. He had liked the girl for years—had admired her from a distance—and now she watched him back.
BAM! Tuffy delivered a kick to Kay G’s stomach, and he bunched over in pain. He had to keep his eye on the bully—not the crowd pressing in around him. Focus. Focus! He straightened to his full height, his fists now pulled up to his face. He recalled his foster brother’s instructions: Put him in a headlock and don’t let go!
As Kay G faced his enemy, the truth seeped in: he cared more about others than he did about himself. And this fight wasn’t only about him. He would battle for all the bullied and abused ones who were too weak to protect themselves. This new purpose washed fresh courage over Kay G. He lowered his gaze, zeroing in on his mission.
Narrowing his eyes, Tuffy stared back, twisting his face while he bounced from one foot to the other. Then he threw a jab at Kay G’s face and caught him on the side of the head. The sting of impact injected Kay G with a surge of energy, and he thought of the jeering biblical bully taking on a small shepherd boy. No matter how much he had grown over the summer, he was still the little guy facing his own giant—and the giant of them all.
Put him in a headlock! He threw an arm around Tuffy’s neck, but the bully slithered out of his grasp. He barreled toward Tuffy and slung an arm around him again. This time, Kay G seized him. The crowd screamed—and so did the memory of his brother’s words: Don’t let go! Kay G squeezed the boy’s head between his forearm and shoulder. Tuffy flailed, but like a mouse caught in a trap, he was stuck fast. Kay G tightened his grip. Then his gaze darted to his favorite spot in the crowd. But what was that look on Charmaine’s face? Disgust? Disappointment?
Kay G bore down until his arm was slick with his opponent’s saliva, tears, and mucus, and his thrashing had subsided. He at last released the boy with a shove, and the bully stumbled, coughing and sputtering. Breaking through the ring of students, Tuffy skulked off. The crowd hooted and cheered. Kay G’s arms flew up into the air, and a smile split his face.
His victory that day on the playground in sixth grade reset his course, and after that, Kay G became the protector of all the kids.
Back in his foster home, though, Kay G’s adversaries didn’t recognize his new titles of either victor or protector, and life trudged forward, each season offering the same things it always had. Twice a year—on his birthday and at Christmas time—hope plagued him, and his foster mom allowed him to enter the normally forbidden front room with its plastic-covered furniture. He perched on the sofa before the vast picture window and stared out onto the street as cars zipped by. Maybe one of them would bring what he wanted more than anything else in the world.
Kay G’s foster mom bustled into the room like she did every year—with her notepad and pen—and approached him at his post.
“Now remember, you can’t get what you always ask for.” Poising her pen above the paper, she crushed his dreams with her eyes. “But you can get toys and games. What’ll it be this year?”
He stared out the window. “I want my mom to come and get me.”
Even a victor wants his mother, and Kay G forgave her, even though she had thrown him away, choosing drugs over him and leaving a pit in his life. When he had collided with Jesus at church as a small boy, he had thought God would fill up that hole in his heart, but the space remained. And the emptiness cried out.
One day, after the boys in the foster home had punched him and bloodied his nose, Kay G ran away. Alone on the streets of Chicago, he spotted a group of guys in blue, smoking, talking, and laughing together like brothers. Why were they so happy? He watched their banter and then at last approached them.
“Can I be in your family too?”
The guys zinged looks back and forth between them. One of them took a drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and shrugged.
“Yeah, little man.”
Kay G had always clung to the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream of becoming a preacher. But his new family that day—the Black Disciples—showed him how to hurt people. And his heart twisted him in two directions. He ached for his real mother and for a future as a preacher with a beautiful choir. He fought for the innocents at school, but in the gang, he became the bully. The gang told him he was a part of something, and they showed him the bottle. And the alcohol blurred his memories and dulled his pain, but it didn’t mute the reality of his infected life. And the drinks and drugs didn’t quell his suffering—or his desire to be a preacher.
Years passed, and after being used up by the bullies of alcohol, drugs, and gangs, twenty-four-year-old Kay G remembered the calling he had heard on the playground in sixth grade: he would be a protector of those too weak to protect themselves. Facing his giants, Kay G started Hope Ministries, a street outreach for prostitutes, drug users, and gangbangers in Chicago, and he poured himself into the endless work.
But life’s path trips us when we look down at our feet.
Distracted and again lost in the dark, Kay G fumbled to the end of himself. When God didn’t answer his prayers to let him die, Kay G tried to be his own answer. But he survived himself and kept breathing anyway. Finally, his burdens dragged him out for one last walk and dropped him onto a bench in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.
“God, let me die.” The same cry that had come from the closet in his childhood home to the same God who had kept him alive.
After three months on that park bench, Kay G had melded with nature, and the squirrels used him as their landing pad.
“God, let me die.” Kay G breathed and slept. Slept and breathed. Finally, jarred awake by the unseen One, he looked up at the clouds. “How did I get here?”
You took your mind off Me.
He rolled over, weak with hunger. “Why me?”
You were chosen yesterday for today.
Kay G’s eyes brimmed with tears. “If You give me the strength to get off this bench, I promise I’ll serve You till the day I die.”
Strength rippled through his body, and he sat up. He would stay alive now, because there was work to do.
*Tune in next week for the conclusion of the story about the life of Kay G Wilson, friend to north Minneapolis, mentor/international peace activist, founder and president of Hope Ministries, spokesman for the Charez Jones Foundation, co-facilitator of Criminals and Gangs Anonymous (CGA) Minneapolis, founder of 500 Man Peace March Minneapolis, spokesman for United in Peace, Inc., Minnesota, and humble servant of Jesus Christ.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.