Orphan Survival Stories Index |
THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG (with me)
"Stand up and face the Judge," said the court officer, as he motioned at us boys with his hand.
All five of us boys, ranging in ages from 8 to 11 stood up and faced the Judge's bench.
"This is not the first time many of you boys have stood before me. I doubt it will be the last," he told us.
We just stood there looking down at the floor.
"What was there to be afraid of?" I thought to myself.
"What can a Judge do to us that the orphanage was not already doing? I thought.
"Boy, that Judge sure has a big head for a human. That's the biggest head I’ve ever seen," I continued thinking to myself.
"ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, BOY?" screamed Judge Gooding.
I looked up from the floor and I saw that he was staring directly at me. I just stood there staring back at him. I did not know what it was that he wanted me to say.
"Bring that boy to my chambers," instructed the Judge as he stood up.
The court officer put his hand into the middle of my back and he pushed me along. As I walked I looked back to see what Robert, Wayne, Eugene, and Billy were doing. They were just standing there with scared looks on their faces.
"Have a seat right there," said the Judge, as he pointed at a chair sitting beside his large desk.
I took a seat and sat there waiting for him to speak.
"What seems to be your problem?" The Judge asked me.
"I don't have any problems." I told him, as I sat there with my hands folded on my lap.
"This is a very serious charge. Breaking and entering into the Patio Restaurant, it’s very serious indeed."
"We didn't break anything."
He just sat there shaking his big head back and forth.
"Then why did you fellows break into that restaurant?" he asked.
"We were hungry. We saw candy bars through the window. So we took out the glass on the back side went in, and started eating all the candy bars."
"Don't you understand that breaking and entering is wrong? That you boys violated the law?" he continued as he pushed his large head toward me.
"But we were hungry."
"Look boy. If I am going to help you, you have to meet me half way. We both have to give a little."
"What do you want me to give? I live at the orphanage and I don't have anything to give."
"Is that all that you have to say?" the Judge questioned.
"You sure got a big head. How come you got such a big head like that?" I said to the Judge.
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU BOY?" He yelled at me.
"I don't know. I think there is something wrong with me inside my head. That is what the orphanage says all the time. But I don't know what they mean."
"It is your big mouth. You do not know when to keep it shut. That's the main part of your problem."
"The orphanage told me that there's something wrong with me deep down inside my head," I muttered.
"Do you think that you are like all the other children who live at the orphanage with you?
"I guess. I seem just like the rest of them. I do not see anything wrong with me. I do what every body else does.”
"Are you telling me that you do not know the difference between right and wrong?
"I know the difference between right and wrong," I said.
"Then why did you boys break into that restaurant last night?"
"Cause we was hungry." I told him, for the second time.
"If it was WRONG then why did you chose to do it?"
"I'm now getting confused, like I don't know what you mean."
"Do you have any plans for your life?" asked Judge Gooding.
"I plan to have my own good food to eat one day."
"Maybe ten days in lock-up will help you get un-confused." he told me, as he pointed toward the ceiling where the juvenile lock-up was located.
"What about the other boys?" I questioned.
"Don't you worry about those other boys. I'll take care of them."
"But they ate the candy bars too. Just like me."
The five of us were locked up in a detention cell in the Duval County Juvenile Hall for ten days. A week later, we were taken back to the Children's Home Society Orphanage.
For years, I was very confused about what Judge Marion Gooding had said to me that day in his courtroom. For years, I kept silent about my past, as well as my life in the orphanage. For years, I always wondered what was wrong with me. I have always wondered what it was that they saw in me. Why was I different from other children?
As I look back I can see that stealing those candy bars was, without a doubt, the wrong thing to do. However, we boys were hungry. Getting to that candy was not a matter of “right or wrong.” It was a matter of instinct and survival.
I hope that things have changed for the children of today. I hope that parents are smart enough to take the time to try to understand what it is that makes a child do, and act a certain way, before giving up on them.
When I turned twenty-nine years old, I secretly went to see a psychiatrist and I had him test me. For two weeks I underwent every test known to the doctor. My I.Q. was a little above the "normal range" and I was about average in all other aspects of the tests.
It is amazing to me when I look back and see the damage that intelligent, civilized adults have done to the children of the past.