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 To Jay Thomas Willis lane

Messed-up Kid

By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

Mid-South Tribune and Black Information Highway


            Richton Park, IL, Oct. 26, 2012 - I was always a precocious but sometimes ignorant child. Early in my development I recognized the true nature of my situation. We were coming home from school one day while riding an old, rickety, and loud school bus. No one had much to say to me, but the younger children were noisy and chatty.

            I sat with an older-male student who was somewhat awkward. I turned to him and said, “If they name a cowboy movie after you, they’re going to call it the ‘Messed-up Kid.’” He didn’t say anything but just laughed along with his friend. Both he and his friend knew the game, and just figured I was making implications about myself. They knew I was doing what psychologists call projecting. Who was more messed up than I?

            I needed development in many areas. Most of us who lived in my community were lacking in varying degrees. I was lacking to a greater degree than many others. I had poor basic skills, lacked exposure, and lacked basic information. I stuttered, at times wore inappropriate clothing, had poor hygiene, suffered from isolation, was awkward socially—didn’t know how to relate to other children. I came from a multi-problem family: there was alcoholism, mental illness, poverty, philandering, and lack of education. I at times tended to be fearful, anxious, and nervous. In addition, there was inadequate overall personality development.

            My father took me to the Gulf Coast where he worked for a little vacation at six years of age. My father left me in the care of a friend’s son who was several years older than I. I went in to use the bathroom. When I finished I put the used toilet paper in the trash can. My friend then went in to use the bathroom.

            When he came out he asked me, “Did you put the used paper in the trash can.”

            “Yes I did,” I replied.

            “Don’t put it in the trash can, flush it in the toilet,” he said.

            I was a country boy who thought he knew it all at six years of age.

            “No you don’t, you put it in the trash can, because it will clog the toilet up,” I said.

            “Ask your father when he gets home.”

            “Ok, I will.”

            When my father came home he got me straight. I was embarrassed that I was that ignorant. The problem was I had never been in a situation to use an indoors toilet before this trip.

            My teacher in first grade told the class we were going on a picnic that Monday. She told everyone to wear appropriate clothing and bring a picnic lunch. Somehow I had fixed in my mind that it was a dress-up affair. I really didn’t know what a picnic was, even at seven years of age. That Monday I came to school in my best dress slacks, shirt, and shoes for the picnic. Again, I embarrassed myself. The teacher didn’t know what to say. She had done her best to give us the correct information.

            My nephew came to visit us during the summer, as was customary for him during most summers. We were talking one day, and he mentioned something about being “king on the throne.” I told him he was making it up, because there was no such thing as a “king on the throne.” I was eight-years old and had never heard of a “king on the throne.” Don’t ask me where I had been.

            I remember in third grade I was humiliated by my teacher. She had everyone bring a toy to school for a special event. No details were given, just bring a toy. I guess this was supposed to be a form of “show and tell.” I didn’t have any toys at home so I went to town that Saturday and bought a toy gun a little bigger than a .9 millimeter handgun, except it had a much longer barrel. It would shoot projectiles out of the barrel as you load them onto a spring one by one.

            Such a projectile could do some damage if you got hit by one. I had seen another boy bring a much smaller version of a similar toy. She gave my toy back to me and told me to take it home. She was a bit hostile in her attitude, but she never said what was wrong with it. I suppose she rejected it because of its potential harm, but I was embarrassed.

            Because there were some cases of schizophrenia in my family, and from conversation in my family, I got the idea there was bad blood in my family. I believe it was a combination of recessive gene combinations and social conditions that produced this schizophrenia. But the talk of voodoo became prevalent, and other conversations about bad blood. My eyes would itch, get watery, and turn red; they would attribute this to bad blood. I think eye allergies are quite common in this country.

            One day the science teacher was trying to get some students to go to a nearby city and give blood for a badly needed blood donation. He approached me privately and asked if I wanted to give blood, “I have bad blood,” I said. I had actually internalized that I had bad blood. The science teacher did say one day that there was no such thing as bad blood unless you had some type of blood disease. I was messed up enough for a long time to believe I had bad blood.

            Regardless of our backgrounds we must be willing to learn, grow, thrive, and develop. We can’t ever give up and throw in the towel. The human species is designed to overcome all sorts of obstacles.


*The above is on the Black Paper lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net .




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