January is National Mentoring Month and this is my story: After 20 plus years at Verizon, I spent almost a decade working on the administrative side of mentoring at risk youth. After that I spent another almost decade working in Christian radio. This past November I returned to the field of at risk youth, only this time I'm working on the other side: the front lines side. The side where I have direct day to day interaction and connection with at risk girls of various ages, cultures, experiences and expectations. It has been challenging trying to get past their tough exteriors, the tests they put you through to see if you're for real, and the ability to know instinctively what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. However, what has become evident to me is that when it comes down to it, like all of us, at risk youth just want to be loved, understood and accepted. But because of life's circumstances, many of which they had/have no control over, how they express that is marred with the stain of their upbringing, their environment, and their lineage.
Recently old memories surfaced and I began to remember myself at their age - a church girl who got into smoking, bullying, and other very risky behavior. Inside I was angry, hurt, disillusioned and confused because of the lifelong secret I carried of growing up in an abusive household. Behind all my risky behavior, I just wanted to be loved. To be protected. To be safe. To be understood. To be accepted.
So as I return from our holiday break, I pray for the strength and the grace to listen between the profanity, to see behind the anger, and to feel beyond the defiance. I pray that I remember that first and foremost these girls are souls, and they are precious in God's sight, and that He has allowed our paths to cross for a reason. I pray that I remember that I am called to love my neighbor and that these girls, in God's eyes each one of them is my neighbor. And while they are in my presence, I will do my best to teach them - with patience, determination and hope - how to respect, value and love themselves. Because God and me, we already do. And once they learn that, all the other lessons like life skills, social skills, tutoring, creative expression, etc.. will be just a little bit easier.
For more information on mentoring visit:
Poetricia Publishing © 2016