We learn to run at such an early age. Was I only three when those dreaded dreadful words came at me “Who did this? With naive and childlike honesty, I admitted that, yes, it was me who poured the pail of milk on the ground, so as to splash in the beautiful white puddles. Was I only six, searching for truth in that bastion of higher learning, grade one, when dreaded words came at me again “Did you steal those pencils?" And once again, I admitted that, yes, I was the culprit. They were such pretty pencils.
Now, years later, still running.
I love the Child and Youth Care profession, partly because there are some beautiful, yet often frightening, truths that surface when we are immersed in our work with children. These truths teach us, they nurture us, they sustain us, and they challenge us to dig deeper. Still digging, here are nine truths that keep me running.
From village one. Your truth is not my truth. I see things that you may not see. I know that you believe 15 year old Julie should be kicked out of school because she wrote “son-of a bitch” across the front of the classroom. I believe that Julie should be congratulated for her assertiveness and ability to spell correctly. Running quickly.
From village two. When you cry you will truly be a Child and Youth Care practitioner. John Denver must have been thinking of our profession when he sang All This Joy. The lyrics “sea of joy, sea of sorrow, sea of promise, sea of pain” always remind me of times I cried. I felt your pain, Julie, and you taught me that I would live after I cried in public. Running faster.
From village three. You will meet a child you dislike – both of you will survive. Michael, honestly, I tried to like you. But after you broke into my house and stole from me, honestly, I really don’t like you. Perhaps that could change. Running faster and faster.
From village four. There are no bad kids. Yes, Michael, you broke into my house and stole from me, but if I really really think you are bad, and write you off, that’s my problem. Remember my pretty pencils. Still running.
From village five. Relationships will make you sick. Only you can figure this out. You choose your relationships – you choose your sickness. Attend a workshop with Ben Wong and Jock McKeen, The Haven, Gabriola Island, B.C. and read the book Ben & Jock, by Gerry Fewster. Run, run, run.
From village six. Somewhere in your life journey you will feel abandoned due to a relationship. See village five. Learn about attachment. Run on.
From village seven. If you are new to the Child and Youth Care profession, it will take a long time for you to develop healthy, meaningful relationships with young people. Why so, you ask? Do you really know who you are, I ask? Running frantically.
From village eight. The older you get, the less risk-taking you may become. This is not helpful in the Child and Youth Care profession. We must take relational risks or find another career. Read Penny Parry’s article, Trust. Sounds like she is still a risk-taker and knows the true meaning of the word trust. Got to run now.
From village nine. Being with children, being with colleagues, and believing in relational work will not allow you to despair. I was feeling sad and lacked the energy to do anything. I was sick of relationships. As I walked into the treatment centre, I was challenged by an eight-year-old boy. I can beat you at football, said Jason. Well, let’s see, said I. We will play to eleven points, said Jason. I tried my best. With the score Jason 10, me 0, he said, I will let you have a free shot, and held his football men still. The game ended, Jason 11 points, me 1 point. My sadness, my lack of energy, was completely gone. In a few short minutes, Jason's childlike intuition kicked in, allowing me to score one point and saving me from the embarrassment of an 11-0 drubbing at football.
Recently, Child and Youth Care friends encouraged me to attend the National Child and Youth Care Conference in Calgary with the theme “It’s the Journey, not the Destination.” I was considering not attending and am I glad I did. The energy and the spirit of Child and Youth Care prevailed and I re-learned that there are wonderful people in this profession. Many that I consider to be friends, right across Canada. I thank you.
One young man, in thanking a speaker said, “My father taught me that where there is life there is hope. So let’s get some life going on here.” And that’s what our relational profession does for me – it always “gets some life going on.” Running now to the tenth village.
This feature: Gompf, K. (2004). Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 17, 3. pp. 78-79