On Face Book this week I had a message from a young man. Well actually there was no message, just a request to become his friend. At first I was puzzled. The accompanying photo showed four laughing young men who looked to be about nineteen or twenty standing in a line, arms draped over shoulders, on the pavement in downtown Toronto. Not one of them looked familiar.
I studied the name and out of the misty depths of my teaching memories, a face began to emerge. A thin blond grade six boy with an big, loveable grin. He and his younger brother had been homeschooled but for some reason the family had decided to send the boys to public school one year and I became the oldest boy's teacher.
He was enthusiastic and genuinely glad to be in school with other kids. I liked him a lot. There was only one issue that I remember worrying about and it had to do with something he told me about himself, his grandfather and guns. For the life of me though, after all of these years and so many kids that I worried about, I can't remember what it was. I just remember that an alarm bell rang quietly in my head.
Thinking this might be who was trying to contact me, I went to his home page photo gallery to see if there was a better picture of him. I was quite taken aback by what I saw. A number of photos were of young men in camouflage uniforms holding guns. They seemed to be involved in some kind of military exercise. There were photos of young women holding rifles too but these women weren't Canadian army women, unless halter tops, lots of skin and hip huggers are allowed on the shooting range. I had no idea what I was looking at. Boy Scouts gone bad? A scary gun club? Camp Borden after hours? An Aryan paramilitary group? I found the images alien and disturbing.
Little boys grow up and change but I didn't expect this one would grow up and move to such a hostile planet in some other universe.
I suppose the warning bell that went off in my head as he described the activity he had done with his grandfather was a hint of the direction his life would take.
Jeesh. I wonder what some of the kids I really worried about are doing now.