My first week at Shelterwood i became first aid/CPR certified and turned in over 20 signed forms. During my first week at Shelterwood i went rock climbing, swimming, biking. My first week at Shelterwood i had a “Little” tell me that he “Is not my Bitch” to which i somewhat inappropriately replied “well actually you kind of are, but don’t worry your not my type” (I later apologized to him but told him he still had to finish cleaning). I saw littles throw chairs off of the balcony. I spent the night in a “Little”s room named “John” who the night before had literally thrown the big out into the hall way (the Big did have Cerebral palsy) and barricaded the door. I had to confiscate two razors from him that night. The next day i saw the same “Little” break a window, then try to run away because he got “Property grounded” and wasn’t able to go to Krispy Kream. That night at Krispy Kream i saw a “little” eat 14 donuts and drink a large coke and then abruptly vomit. I saw “John” have to get restrained and forced back into his room. He then punched a Hall director (In the arm) and stayed up till 5am (thankfully i wasn’t in his room that night). I saw the same little get escorted out this morning because he got pulled from the program. Then today after lunch i talked to a kid who told me almost killed himself last night but had his roommate walk in “at the right time”.
All in a weeks work at Shelterwood. The last 6 days have felt like a month. This is going to be a long year.
With that said, im doing suprising well inspite of the craziness of the last six days. I really feel like God has prepared me very well for this Job and as a result it appears that most of the kids respect my “athorita” (South park reference). For example “John” (not his actual name) was really well behaved the night i stayed in his room and actually went to bed at 1am which he said was the earliest he had ever gone to sleep during his two week stay at Shelterwood. Im not foolish to believe that im some kind of snake charmer but i was definitely able to apply some of my knowledge to guide my interaction with him the way I wanted it to go by doing things like…
Never taking anything personal- When i first met “John” he had written “F*%k new Bigs” on his back in permanent marker. Even though i was shocked i reminded myself to not take this personally and went straight up to him and started talking and trying to relate to him.
Relating– after talking to him i realized that we had some things in common, mostly in terms of previous places that we had lived. I quickly probed these topics more deeply to highlight our similarities because as i learned in our training “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion”. I think that this was probably one of the biggest issues for this kid was that he had a lot of Adults in this program trying to enforce rules without having established any relationship and rebellion (breaking windows, punching, running away) ensued. I knew the kid for 48 hours and he obeyed me more than any other “Big” (except one).
Thinking outside the box– I always used punishment as a last resort, and tried to think of other ways to attain my goals than a full frontal assault of demanding and then punishing. For example “John” and another “Little” in the room had a radio in their room and where listening to unapproved stationed way to loud. I couldn’t allow them to break the rules but i knew that “john” wanted me to try to turn down the radio so that we could get into power struggle over the volume/station. I decided to work around the problem by going upstairs and getting my small speakers and ipod and playing approved music that they liked at a reasonable volume. Not to toot my own horn but my fear of getting into a power struggle over the volume was accurate because the next day one of the other new bigs went into the bathroom and turned down the volume of the radio while the littles where showering and they almost rioted (kind of).
The best defense is a good offense- The last thing i have learned/ worked to apply is that it is always best to be proactive especially when dealing with kids who have a defiance disorder. Whenever there was a silence or he was sitting around not doing anything i tried to initiate a conversation or some kind of interaction because it was easy to steer those interactions in the direction i wanted then trying to redirect their self initiated conversations and interactions that often lead to violence and course joking.
I am really excited for this year and everything that God is going to teach me. I know that it will probably be miserable at times and i will want to quit some days, but i also know and have already seen God stretching me and refining my faith and my character. My heart breaks everyday to see the darkness that so many of these kids live in. It breaks my heart to learn about some of the brokenness that these kids have come from. Abandonment, divorce, abuse, neglect; all of these things feed into their frustration and they lash out at us because we are the light shining into their darkness.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21)
Please pray for me and all other staff at Shelterwood that we would continue to be the light that exposes darkness. That we would return hate with love, accusations with commendation, and violence with peace. That we would not only turn the other cheek, but bless them when they curse us, pray for them when they do us wrong. And that we would do this not because its our duty, our calling or our job, but because we know Jesus, and his love for us. Please pray for patience, wisdom and joy that surpasses all understanding.
Ps. Even though a lot of this may seem heavy, (which it is) i do want yall to know that i am also having a lot of fun, especially with the other bigs and that even though its hard i feel more alive than i have for a long time. So don’t worry, pray.