Yesterday Rose and I volunteered at a local high school for Challenge Day. Rose had done it before and asked me to come along. Wow. Thank you Rose. Challenge Day is a one day program that helps kids break down barriers, reconsider cliques, have a moment to feel without being laughed at (what? Yo! really?) and to rethink bullying.
Armando (name changed) was a kid I did not meet. He would not meet me. The adults are supposed to help the kids get crazy all morning so that in the afternoon they feel safe to go deep. In fact the harder they play, the deeper they go. This was a quote. (I think I will store this one away as I get to know the youngin on the way). Anyway, Armando, was tough, stuck to a friend, uncommunicative, dressed to threaten. I tried to meet the kid several times. Chin would jut out, he would nod, say nothing. I stopped hanging around.
By the end of the day, I saw him again. His hat (which was covering his eyes before) was off, he was smiling. He hugged his friend, who was crying. I am not making that up. He looked like so many of the kids looked. I finally figured out what I was seeing. It was relief. Finally a breath a space, permission, to be who they are, to feel, to care. Most of us got in line in the first grade and from then on had the feeling/loving/caring disciplined right out of us.
As these kids saw that they are the same in more ways than they are different the walls came down. I saw myself in Armando. I spent the day mostly in tears, for myself and for the kids. So great to see them find a little oasis in the middle of the desert, a place to bloom, a little, for a minute. At the end the facilitators said that they believe that lives had been changed in that day. Mine was. I have hope for Armando. Who knows what pressure cooker he goes in to when his hat goes back on and he walks out that door, but I do have hope and that feels fresh. Watch this.