Even AngelsHave Troublesby Monica Casa, Phoenix, AZMy mother teaches a second-grade bilingual class. For as long as I can remember, she has told me to be thankful for what I have because there are so many not as fortunate. She would come home and tell me stories about students who came to school with many problems. She would tell me how hard it was for her to listen to these kids cry their eyes out because of what happens in their homes. For the longest time, I couldn't understand how hard it was for my mom - until I experienced it myself.I attend a private Catholic high school and every year we are required to complete a number of community service hours. My friend and I wanted to complete them together but couldn't decide where. One of my friends had worked at the Boys and Girls Club over the summer and said it was really fun, so I figured we would give it a shot. The first day was rough. We were really nervous, but after we started playing with the kids, it was the best decision. I was really surprised at how the kids welcomed us. They weren't afraid to speak to us. For the next few months, I looked forward to Fridays at the club.During our time there, I became very attached to many of them, but there was one 12-year-old girl I will never forget. Her name was Vanessa. We would sit and talk until it was time for her to go home. One Friday, Vanessa didn't show up. I asked one of her friends who said she hadn't shown up for school. The next week, I arrived early. I didn't see Vanessa until 5: 00. I asked her where she had been all this time and what she told me nearly broke my heart. She said that one of her mother's friends was living with them for a while. Without Vanessa's family knowing it, the friend was using their house to sell drugs. The police figured out what was going on and did a drug bust at her house. As if that wasn't bad enough, Vanessa's mother was arrested and the kids were taken to stay with another relative.Vanessa burst into tears because she was afraid what would happen to her mother. She was crying and I tried to comfort her as best as I could. I hugged her and told her everything would be alright. I also told her to try to be strong for her little brother. I managed to cheer her up and get her mind off of things. When she left, smiling, she gave me a hug and said, "Thank you."That night, I went home and I cried for Vanessa. I cried for this confused and scared little girl who had no idea what was happening or why it was happening. I still have this image in my mind of her crying in my arms - and her smiling face as she left. I thought, Why, why did this have to happen and force a child to grow up faster than necessary? I thought how unfair it was for such a sweet little girI to experience such pain.The next week was my last, and Vanessa never came back. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and wonder what became of her. Every night I pray for Vanessa, and every child who has to deal with so much. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.