Boston's Jack Williams and "Wednesday's Child"
“How are your grades?”
“You have to study hard. You are a great kid. I’d be so thrilled one day to be there when you graduate from law enforcement academy.”
Araina climbs back into her case manager’s car, heading south to her home, where all she can do is wait for the show to air and then wait to see if anyone calls to say, “I want to meet Araina.”
Jack Williams walks back into the station, down a corridor, and into his office that’s crammed with photos of “Wednesday’s Child” kids. Beside his desk, a cabinet holds tapes of the segments, lined up in rows, organized by years. He doesn’t forget a child. Not one.
“I remember a little girl, many years ago,” he says. “I took her to play tennis. So precious. The social worker took me aside and told me the little girl had been sexually abused since age 3. She’d been passed around, even to neighbors. I said on the air that her early life had been horrible, that she had been abused. Some guy called the station. ‘I’m the father. That was bull—-. I’m coming down there.’ I said, ‘Come down. I’ll be by myself. We can talk.’
“There’s a boy with Down syndrome. He was adopted by a Vermont family, and he was looked after by the whole village. What would have happened to him?
“I remember one of my favorite pieces. A boy had been badly burned. Most of his body was disfigured. We taped him at the Arnold Arboretum. The camera person said, ‘I don’t know if I can go through with this.’ I said, ‘You think it’s hard on you — what about him?’ I said to the boy, ‘You don’t complain?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Even when it hurts every minute?’ ‘Nope.’
“There was this one little boy. It was the only time I almost didn’t tape. He had both hands on the doorknob. He took one look at me and he started hitting his head on the wall. I said, ‘I can’t put this on TV.’ Finally, you saw the little boy sitting on the ground, mumbling. I was so curious. I said to the social worker, ‘I want to know who adopts this kid.’ She called me after he’d been adopted by a family in North Attleboro. I went to see them. It was a humble house. A sign outside said, ‘Welcome Jack Williams.’ And inside there was a second sign: ‘We love Wednesday’s Child.’ I go in and the kid had started writing words on a computer. ‘Hi, Jack Williams.’ I said, ‘What are we doing?’ He types, ‘WBZ-TV4, the station New England trusts.’
“At that moment I said to myself, I will never judge anyone again on a first impression. Never again.”
If you’re having a bad day, or a bad month, spend some hours watching the “Wednesday’s Child” tapes. Your worries about that balky car or the leaky roof or your kid who is goofing off in English class will wash away as child after child talks to you across the years.
Paul is 14. He has lived more than half his life in foster homes. It’s hard to move, he says. You start getting used to someone and then, poof — you’re gone…. Hi folks. It’s Michael here. I like a family that doesn’t give up on me…. Gus is 11 years old. Now that I’m going to be on “Wednesday’s Child,” a good family will pick me out and I’ll stay. I hope that I will be happy with them for the rest of my life.
I think I can be very good. I’d be nice and I wouldn’t lie a lot. I wouldn’t pick on the other person that was living there. I would try and be a nice kid, really. I just want a family to keep me for the rest of my life…. Dennis at 13 playing catch with Williams: I could be a good son. I’m at my grade level. I’m active. I’d just be there when they need me. The faces go on and on and on. More boys than girls. More Hispanic and black than white. Many eventually find families. Many do not. Today there are about 1,000 children in Massachusetts foster care who are legally free for adoption. Jack Williams long ago made his peace with the math — so many children, not enough Wednesdays.
“Imagine the impact for generations to come if you give hope and love to just one child,” he says. And then he tells a story, one that he says is his favorite of all the happy stories. He says there was a boy named Angel, and he was being starved to death.
The tape is from February 1992. On it an 11-year-old boy is at the Stoughton fire station with Williams. Angel weighs only 49 pounds. This is a boy who needs lots of love, lots of nurturing, Williams says. He asks the boy, What kind of guy are you?