We had an amazing week at Bear Creek Middle School and Oakley Elementary this week as we moved forward with Power of Half programming.
Last week, our family told our story and set the stage for kids to recognize that they had the Power to be givers, regardless of income level. But this week, our program took a dramatic turn: At the urging of our teammate, social worker Ed Morris, we knew we had to let the students acknowledge their hurts and pains. After all, so many kids have impediments to achievement, particularly at this low income level. And Ed knew they had to have a chance to express those pains to be ready to move forward.
Part of the program was a 7-minute video that Joe created about needs that people might have, anchored with clips of Bear Creek faculty talking about their own battles as youth -- being shot, fighting anger, being involved with drugs, living with an alcoholic father.
Then Ed instructed the students to write out on index cards the pains or issues in their lives, "What is holding you back or keeping you from achieving your best? In other words, what would you want to bury in your life so that you can move forward?"
Hundreds of kids walked to the basket in the center of the room, solemnly dropping their pains into the basket there.
I read the cards tonight. They were stunning, simply stunning. Some are simple reflections of understanding that they need to work harder or behave better, like the kids who wrote "Me" or "Grades" or "My attitude."
As is true in poor communities, many kids simply want some connection with fathers who have abandoned the family. "Not having a Daddy!" or "My dad isn't in my life" come up time and again. "I want to get rid of feeling unwanted," wrote one student.
Some are universal teen issues -- loneliness, name-calling, teacher problems, sibling battles, disappointment with hair color or height or weight. Many touch on parental issues, like the student who wrote: "I would like to see my mom happy and having fun in life." or "I want to bury having my father say I will drop out by the time I'm in high school."
Others heartbreakingly cry out for help:
-- "My sister is sick and I'm failing one class. What should I do?"
-- "I am insecure and I feel like I'm not going to make it in life."
-- "I start my life off good, but now I am heading toward failure."
-- "I just want someone to hug me and tell me that everything is ok and that everything bad that's happening to me is gonna be over."
Many, though, go so much deeper. Here are a few:
-- "I was raped at the age of 5."
-- "When my daddy would always hit me and it left bruises."
-- "People hurt me physically and mentally."
-- "The day we went without eating because my mom didn't have any money to buy us anything."
-- "My grandmother used to abuse me when I was younger and my stepfather sells drugs."
-- "My main problem is I am 16 and in the 8th Grade again. I hate that!"
-- "Smoking weed. Stop being in a gang. Stop using weapon."
-- "I got stabbed in the thigh by my own mother."
It was all so breathtaking, really. Made me wish I could hug each and every one of these kids. (Of course, professional counselors are working with the toughest cases.)
Next week, we move forward to help students begin to realize that they have plenty to give the world, that they have the Power to help others -- and of course help themselves in the process. We can't transform their home lives, but we can show them their gifts in at least one facet of their world.