Yesterday I went to speak to some teenagers about writing as part of National Library Week. It was a mixed bunch with ages from 12 to 16, with varying levels of education.
As we interacted some of the kids shared their stories. Some were abused in their family homes and expressed gratitude to have another family, some shared that they had a spiritual awakening that led to them being removed from harmful situations.
I was in awe at how easily they spoke their truth, how unashamedly they put their hurt out there and how grateful they were for a new life. I admired that at such young ages they were aware that they had an opportunity to change their lives and chart their own course.
As I drove back to my office in the comfort of my car, I could not stop thinking of these kids and how their worlds were miles apart from mine. I also could not help but think what a small, safe space I live in.
My space was not always small. My mom was a single parent with four daughters and we felt how tightly she pulled her belt especially in the last days of the month before she got paid. As a kid, I was sharply aware, that even though things at my home were not spectacular that I was in a better position than many of the girls I went to school with and many of the kids who lived around us. As a result, we were always encouraged to assist. My sister and I spent many evenings in the library reading for the younger kids and helping the librarians make posters. My cousin and I visited the elderly and carried food for people who had limited mobility while my Girl Guide troop often visited children’s homes to clean or help out the administrative staff.
As I grew older that kind of giving and contributing stopped. While I would make the odd monetary contributions, I make no contact with the recipients of the donation. I am too busy to give of my time. As a result, my world has become whitewashed of people with pain, people who are in need, people who may really need some help. My world is sanitized, the problems that are around me are a coaching client’s angst, an organizational strategy, wall paint, money for extras, who is publishing my new book. It all seems so petty, so small, so irrelevant when I listen to the kids as they navigate their world.
Now I am thinking, how do I go back, how do I make contact, how do I really assist? These kids are not part of my daily life but they are part of my wider community and need to be engaged; how do I do that?
I am not rushing out to save the world, I am just thinking of what I need to do to expand my boundaries so that I can contribute to the larger world.
Who is on the outskirts of your community? How do you engage them?