Little by little, Schroff begins to meet his needs, and the two become lifelong friends. Because of her help, Maurice escapes his family's drug-addled poverty and manages to build a middle-class life.
In trying to explain her actions, Schroff tells of her own childhood. She is one of four children who grew up in a lower middle-class family on Long Island. Her father was an alcoholic who supported his family but also terrorized them.
When he drank, he would become explosively violent toward his wife, children and even their household possessions. Schroff describes some of the episodes in enough detail to paint a vivid picture of domestic violence hell.
Fresh from reading her story, I heard of Jahlil's tragedy.
It's not hard to imagine the horrors being experienced by other children living in situations they are too young to handle or to understand. They are in the news nearly every day.
It is hard not to despair. What can any of us do? People will drink or use drugs, and some of them will turn into monsters. Others will zone out and simply neglect their children. It has always been this way.
Perhaps hearing, and remembering, the stories of people who manage to do something and make a difference is important.
Jahlil's funeral will be held at an East End church today. His school, Malden Elementary, has organized a spaghetti dinner for Monday night to raise money for his family.
Jahlil also liked to roller-skate, and the rink where he went on weekends, Skateland in Campbells Creek, will give the family the proceeds from its 6 to 9 p.m. session on March 31.
While Jahlil would have welcomed this help for his family, not everyone will be able to attend the dinner or go to the rink.
Perhaps there's another way to do something for this young hero.
There will be other frightened or sad children who just need a little help.
We can remember him and be willing, as he was, to act.
Friend is editor and publisher of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-5124 or nan...@dailymail.com.