It was after dark one evening last November when 40-year-old Lewis Haley arrived at a city park in New Orleans to mentor some teenage boys, each of whom has a parent in prison. A temperamental streetlamp flickering in a corner of the outfield revealed that 45 boys were waiting for him. Haley volunteers as a mentor to all of them.
This isn’t how mentoring is supposed to work, say the experts. It’s best for one adult to focus exclusively on one child. But Haley found the need for mentors to be so great and so urgent that he bent his program’s rules and created a football team in order to reach dozens of kids.
“We asked them to bring $3 each for the season, and only three kids out of 45 were able to do it,” said Haley, who became involved in mentoring through his church, Ebenezer Baptist. “We’re like the lifeline for these children. We can’t let them go.”
G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a freelance journalist, ordained United Church of Christ minister, and author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, 2010).