Slim chance better than no chance

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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By Nathan Rice

Timothy’s mother opened the door to their home as she called for him to come. She spoke to him as he put on his shoes, but her language seemed to be geared more towards an unruly sailor than an elementary school-aged boy. It caused my heart to ache.

He walked to my car, and we began our few hours together. Occasionally, a word would come out of his mouth that he knows I do not like to hear. He would apologize, and I would thank him for his efforts in trying to avoiding certain words. I know that he does try to watch his language around me. My heart sank some more as I thought about how the culture of his home has made foul and crude language his native tongue.

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Later that day, when I took him home, he was met by a scowl at the door. He waved goodbye to me and entered his home for another week. We were together for about five hours that day. It was such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things, and I left feeling like I had placed a Band-Aid on a wound that needed surgery and stitches.

Words of people who know of my efforts with Timothy echoed in my mind. “There’s not much of a chance what you do will matter,” “There’s a very slim chance that he comes out of this OK,” and “Statistics show he’s just going to be another tragedy,” pained my heart some more as I drove away.

I know they are right. I know he’s starting life so far behind the 8-ball that it will be a miracle if he comes out of his situation on top. I’m not ignorant of the statistics. I know there’s a slim chance. Nevertheless, I am going to try to help him.

Our time together shows him that there is a different way of life. He can see that not everyone is rude, crude and foul-mouthed. He can know that not everyone meets him at the door with a scowl. He can know that love exists and see that chaos does not rule every household. He might not know this way of life existed if he didn’t have a chance to see it for himself.

I can try to teach him some things that he won’t learn in his home. It’s far from an ideal learning platform, as these life lessons are intended to be taught over vast periods of time through constant reinforcement in the home. I do not have that much time with him, but we can work on things at a different pace and build on what he has learned in our years together.

A slim chance is better than no chance. He deserves to have someone who will try to help him, even if the odds are not in his favor. Every child deserves a chance.

I hope others will find those around them who are considered unlikely to overcome the odds. They are worth your time. Let’s work together to give every child a chance for a better outcome.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at