Consorting With Wild Youth// how sarah became friends with the local delinquents

As a general rule, homeschoolers are good kids.

(I say this with trepidation, waiting for the comments telling me I’m wrong because their brother’s best friend’s cousin’s homeschooled neighbor became a serial killer.)

But as a general rule, homeschoolers don’t leave a path of destruction in their wake. They’re more prone to correcting your Silmarillion name pronunciations than hanging out in back alleys doing drugs. Swear words are swapped with Studio C quotes. Old ladies usually adore them.

Being a homeschool graduate, I spent most of my childhood and teenage years with others of my kind. I never encountered the infamous “troubled kids” of the public school world; the worst I had to deal with was that one guy who didn’t want to censor the Hamilton lyrics in our co-op choir. I didn’t meet many public school kids, and the ones I did cross paths with were usually pretty nice. The kids at church were nice. All my friends were nice.

In general, everyone I knew was nice.

Yes, I’m admitting to a sheltered childhood. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

I work at a small-town library. Which happens to be within walking distance of both the high-school and the middle-school. Because of this (and because our town is approximately three square feet and Nothing™ is ever Going On™), the local pack of teenagers have designated the library as their official after-school hangout.

There are plenty of nice teenagers in my town. But you must understand: This particular pack is not made up of friendly country bumpkins sporting overalls and manners. The internet has made them aware that country manners are not how Other People live (read: famous people) and when you pair this growing cultural awareness with family issues, school problems, and zero moral training (not to mention a decent helping of human nature), you have the chemical explosion that makes up this group of kids.

In other words, they’re the local reprobates.

With them around, I no longer need a clock. I know it’s 4 P.M. on the dot when the library doors crash open and a swarm of wild youths descend upon us, spilling their drinks and swearing loud enough to put megaphones to shame. They congregate in the children’s section (which is fitting, really), and brainstorm new and creative ways to demonstrate their immaturity. Like smoking.

Meanwhile, I’m in culture shock. I was hired to shelve books and sometimes teach old ladies how to use cell phones. No one told me I was going to spend most of my time as a bouncer for twelve-year-olds.

One evening after the 4 o’clock stampede, the library director poked his head into my office. “Sarah—” he paused, waiting for the shouting in the foyer to subside— “do you ever listen to the herd of animals out there and feel grateful your parents spared you from that kind of childhood?”

I emphatically said I did.

He nodded sagely. “Yeah. I keep trying to picture you as one of them and it’s honestly ruining my day.”

Thank you, sir. It’s ruining my day too.

The librarians have various ways of handling the 4 o’clock chaos. For instance, one believes that “kids will be kids,” and only intervenes when bookshelves are in danger of falling on someone’s head. Another librarian doesn’t intervene at all. (She doesn’t get paid enough for that.) Meanwhile, the third librarian is a huge proponent of “spare the rod, spoil the child,” and takes every opportunity to yell at the mob. They usually don’t listen to her. But she feels better for trying.

I’ve opted for a new and much more effective approach; manipulating them using the unconquerable force of peer-pressure. I can do this because I’m college-age and therefore a god. At least, in their opinion.

Example A:

A group of boys pushed all the tables in the study hall into a semi-circle to make a miniature wrestling ring. The girls perched coquettishly on the tables and cheered for their vanquishing heroes, who wriggled in the center like worms on the sidewalk. It was a glorious display of many brains working together to create zero brain cells. I was impressed.

I stood quietly in the doorway, watching the scene unfold. They didn’t really know how to wrestle. One of them looked mildly queasy. For a split-second, I felt sorry for them – in a few years they’ll look back on this and cringe themselves into an early grave.

It was at this moment, as I looked on with amusement and pity, that they finally noticed me.

The room went instantly silent. The mighty wrestlers paused, mid-headlock.

“Just so you know, there’s a toddler playground outside,” I said. “Though I realize you might be a bit too young for it.” And promptly left.

(Only to scurry to the office so I could watch them on our security cameras. I’ve never seen a group of fifteen-year-olds gain self-awareness so fast. They looked positively embarrassed. I didn’t know that was possible.)

They cleared out after that. Even put the tables back. I felt satisfied.

The problem with security cameras is they have blind spots. Somehow the little savages discovered these blind spots, and now congregate in them. It’s freaky. You can hear them, but not see them. I’ve taken to hiding behind shelves and around corners for the sole purpose of eavesdropping. (And making sure they aren’t trashing the place.)

The depth of their intellectual prowess is on full display during these conversations. A lot of swearing happens. A lot of relationship drama is discussed. (John dumped Jessica three times in one day, folks.) Sometimes they break out the marijuana and I seize my chance to pounce from my hiding spot, scaring the everloving daylights out of them.

But sometimes, in the midst of these discussions of hormonal intrigue, you overhear some worthy material. For instance, one time they were discussing which of the seven deadly sins they were, and a girl primly stated, “I’m not any of them.”

A long moment of silence transpired, followed by her friend piping up with, “So pride, then.”

Another time, I heard a group of boys discussing their taste in women. A ludicrous subject, considering they were twelve, but they tossed around opinions with such authority, Tony Stark himself would’ve been proud. (Jacob is into girls who clean his room for him, just so you know. The only girl he’ll ever find like that is his mom.)

“You know what really turns me off?” one of them said. “Girls who can’t spell.”

You know what, buddy? Same.

As a pair of guys were walking out the door one day, I overheard one, in great distress, pose the dramatic question: “Bro, what have we become?”

The answer was immediate. “Disappointments.”

They’re becoming self-aware.

Meanwhile, my crusade of shaming with peer-pressure continued. Some lunkhead brought a boombox (a literal boombox) into the library to play music. He was in the furthest corner of the building, so I guess he thought we wouldn’t be able to hear him, but needless to say, the walls shook. As soon as they saw me coming, he and his friends froze like deer in the headlights.

The offending boombox loomed, big and black. I sighed. “I’m really curious why you thought this was a good idea.”

“I told him not to!” quavered a girl who had most definitely not told him anything of the sort, but was trying to save face. I looked at her. She fled.

(Later, when telling a friend about this encounter, he scoffed at my confusion over her hasty getaway. “Honestly, Sarah,” he said. “You’re terrifying.”)

(I was pleased with that response.)

Since then, (after a few more altercations) I’ve had growing luck with the herd of animals. When they stand in the foyer making enough noise to raise Father Time, all it takes is a bit of eye contact for them to instantly shut up. In fact, the other day, I heard them shushing each other.

“What’s this?” a fellow librarian wondered. “Maturity or fear?”

We reflected on this for a half-second.

“Fear.”

And do you know something? In a strange, utterly abhorrent way, I’m becoming fond of them.

They’re a disaster, yes. But they’re kids. And when you pay attention, looking beneath the boomboxes and loud voices and vulgar jokes, you start to see the tragedy of them. Like the twelve-year-old girl whose voice broke when she asked me for a book that would help her know if she was gay. Or the pink-haired boy with dead eyes. Or the time a group of them were discussing loudly why they didn’t want to go to a certain boy’s house, and he finally yelled, “It’s not my fault my parents drink too much!”

I was driving through town last week when I saw a group of no-gooders skulking in an alley, and upon closer inspection, realized I knew every single one of them by name. Nothing shakes your grasp on reality quite as much as when you personally know the local troublemakers, but at the same time, I was left with more compassion than I ever thought possible during my days as a squeaky-clean, self-righteous homeschooler.

They’re no longer the faceless “bad kids” I was warned about when little. They’re individuals with names and personalities. I know them. They’re children.

They’re lost.

So in closing, I have one last thought: Pray for your local pack of reprobates. They might do drugs in the mop closet when you’re not looking, but they need Christ just as much as the rest of us.

And you know what?

We need Christ just as much as them.

~Sarah

34 thoughts on “Consorting With Wild Youth// how sarah became friends with the local delinquents

  1. I did not expect, after spending 8/9 of this post laughing my head off to then be reduced to tears in the last ninth. 😢 Good job, Sarah.

    I am one of those beloved-by-old-ladies homeschooler’s though. 😂 Our library is spitting distance from the middle school, so every afternoon a bunch of tweenagers invade and turn the place into their nightclub. 😛 The librarian hates it and clamps down on all chaotic revelry as soon as it starts. I sit quietly in a chair or browse shelves and therefore have earned the position of ‘such a nice girl’… meaning I’m now allowed to do things that the unruly kids are not, like eat food in the main room or take withdrawn books for free. Cause Im a breath of fresh air for the librarian. 😂 Be nice, kids, you might get free stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What can I say. I like to keep people on their toes. 😂

      Yeah, I was one of those homeschoolers too. Working here has really given me a better understanding of how unusual teenagers like us are. For every 1 of us, there’s like, 20 of them. It’s astonishing. (I recently found out that one of the reasons I got hired was because the head librarian remembered me from my highschool days and put in a good word for me, so yes, I concur. Be good and you’ll be treated well. It’s a simple library formula.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it ❤️
    Sarah!
    You post tooooo little😪😪😪😪😪
    Everytime I see a post from you I get sooooo excited
    !
    Plz post more often

    Like

  3. This was awesome. The weirdest thing I’ve seen at my library is two moms talking about how stars are angels and aliens/demons built the pyramids. And there was one guy who was having a rather loud discussion about his health problems.

    But I work before school gets out.

    Great post as always!

    Like

  4. To make me laugh out loud AND hold back tears in the SAME POST is a tremendous feat: congratulations on making this happen 👏🏻 Seriously, this was so inspiring in the least cliche ways (‘cause “cliche inspiring” isn’t very inspiring ha)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow. Just…wow. Thank you for this post. I needed the reminder to pray for my community. (Hey, I’ll pray for your wild library teens too!)

    Liked by 3 people

  6. This was beautifully hilarious. We can laugh as much as we want to, but at the end of the day (or, post) these types of situations are the ones that need the most prayer. I’m praying that God can use your kind (and hilariously frightening? XD) heart to witness to these kids. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. Exactly this. It’s very easy to write wild or destructive people off as “bad people” without ever seeing the need behind their actions, but they’re the ones in most need of our prayer and testimony.

      Kind and hilariously frightening. That has a nice ring to it. 😂

      Liked by 3 people

  7. This is insane, but the last seven paragraphs—💯 It’s what I was thinking throughout the whole post even at the funny parts. Just. Yes. Ack. It’s heartrending.

    Like

      1. The funny thing is, I didn’t even know the blog post itself was going there, that’s just where my brain went. We’re even subconsciously linked. 😁

        Like

  8. This was beautiful. I work around a lot of “wild youth” too, totally different environment, and yet… this post was still so relatable. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for seeing them and helping your readers to see them, too (and reflect on our own lives while we’re at it).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Aaaahh this was AMAZING. And it actually represents a lot of what I love about you and your writing. Hilarious as always (I definitely did not choke on my water – multiple times) YET with deeper emotions and empathy and compassion running underneath. What a beautiful, Sarah-esque reminder to look deeper, past the repulsive flaws, and see the broken soul that God loves and cherishes. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I don’t know if I’ll recover from this. May as well give up sarcasm now, I’ll never be on Sarah Baran’s level. smh

    Like

  11. Oh, yes, I’m one of those homeschoolers too 😂. I’ve always known of the sadness of the “bad kids” on an intellectual level, but once I started writing that knowledge was pounded into my soul.
    And now I’m wondering what I’d encounter if I took others’ advice and worked at a library… 😂

    Like

  12. Amen, we all need Christ. *sends you and kids a big hug* It’s sad that we live in such a broken world. I hope the kids will have a chance to know Christ soon 🙂

    Like

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