Dear Youth

by Ernesto Rodriguez

I wanted to take the time to write to you about the importance of relationships. You see, relationships do not only mean the kind we have with an intimate special someone, but the kind of relationships that pick you back up in life when you fall.

You see, in life, we have the illusion that the friendships we build with homeboys or the homegirls are everything. We believe that if we are accepted and build up our reputation in our hood, in our street, that somehow it will erase or blot out the heavy and painful things we go through in the darkness of our lives. In the darkness we are born to. Some of us go through things that may traumatize us and make us feel vulnerable in a way that we turn to aggression and violence to mask the insecure thoughts and feelings those experiences may haunt us with. We may grow up seeing our mothers beat mercilessly, we may see our little sisters struggle psychologically because they experienced sexual molestation or rape, we may grow up in poverty that never allows to develop some kind of stability in our lives and therefore become apathetic towards others… So why should we nurture the kind of relationships that promote the very things we are trying to escape and hide from? Yes, the gang life, the street life and the homegirls/homeboys only represent the very things we are ashamed of. We tell ourselves a lie that because we are brave enough to defend our neighborhoods through gang violence, that somehow we are brave enough to carry the vulnerable secrets in our hearts that we want no one to know about. That somehow, we are being aggressive, not to the human beings we are hurting in the process of our internal struggle, but to the monsters that took our innocence during our vulnerable stage of childhood.

I’ve been incarcerated for eighteen years of my life. I can tell you from experience that the relationships that picked me back up in life, when I fell the hardest—was not my homeboys or homegirls…No, it was my family. It was my family who came and comes to visit me every week. It was and is my family who writes me. It’s my family who puts money on my books to get the simple necessities. It is my family who never gave up on me to let my past go and educate myself to learn how to educate others in avoiding to learn what life is all about the way I did.

How could we nurture the relationships that only contribute towards our own destruction? We say that we love the people who are always there for us, but yet never hear their words of advice, much less spend our time nurturing the relationships that instill love, hope and direction in our lives.

Let the light, the beacon of those relationships that guide us towards our best version of ourselves and guide us through the destructive relationships that hinder our purpose as human beings. Let those relationships that give us hope, whether it is our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, a good friend, a counselor, a teacher, or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ guide us and show us the way towards love, salvation and our calling in life be the ones whom have the most in uence in our hearts, our minds, so that our spirits encourage us to do with our lives what God put us on this earth to do.

Thank you for listening.