I’ve been posting a lot recently about how much of life comes down to truth and lies. Then yesterday I was visiting our neighborhood school and talking with Yolanda, who runs some after school programs there. She told me that she had just finished a conversation with one of the kids, and that it had so clearly illustrated the dynamic of truth and lies. The story was very moving for me, and I subsequently asked if she could share it here on the blog. Many thanks to Yolanda for taking the time to write this out!
Working with kids is tough. Ask any teacher, social worker, counselor, activist….the list goes on. In my 5+ years working in youth development, I’ve continued to ask “God, why am I doing this? Am I breaking through with these kids? Is change actually occurring?” It finally did began to click during a recent encounter with a student at Cameron Elementary School. God answered my question.
This one particular student which I will identify as “Tip” was constantly in trouble. He begged for me to participate in after school programs. I felt that his involvement may have a positive effect on his behavior, so I let him join. Sadly I was wrong, and as a result, I had to release him from the program. A couple months after, I remember seeing him in the main office.
This is typically a sign that students are in trouble and are waiting to meet with the principal. I slowly approached him and asked “Tip, why are you here?” He sadly buried his head into his hands. I sighed and asked him “Tip, don’t you know you’re destined for greatness?” He looked at me straight in the eye and said “No, I’m not.” Silence.
As tears formed my eyes I thought to myself someone told him a lie. In these types of situations, if students have no idea what you are referring to, they will respond by looking around dazed and confused or by finding some mechanism to get them distracted. But Tip knew exactly what I was talking about. I then replied “Yes you are destined for greatness.” He shook his head and repeated “No, I’m not.”
My purpose working with children made a little more sense. Words of affirmation are a powerful love language not only for adults but also for youth. “Tip, you are made in a beautiful image, and yes, you are destined for greatness. And when you recognize that, that’s when you’ll start acting like it. I’ll talk with you later.” I left the office quickly and wiped my tears away. Tip’s response broke my heart. At some point in his life, he was told the opposite of being great. I will never truly understand the impact I have on children. But I do know that my love and passion for them is grand and it is my purpose to continue to speak words of truth