Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Uphill battle

" I cry out to God Most High, who fulfills his purpose for me." ~Psalm 57

So far, I haven't been very good at keeping up with this thing. The thing is, I have so many stories and memories I want to write down and share, but I'm usually out living them and don't have time to write them all down...

So we our on our third week of the elementary summer program. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that the first week may have been one of the most challenging experiences I have had in my life. I amazing how different it is to work with preschoolers and then switch over to working with 11-13 year olds. I definitely went called home crying more than once that first week. It's not that I dislike my job. Nothing could be further from the truth. But when a white middle class girl comes in and tries to take control of a class of 20 middle school kids who live in poverty, respect is generally not the first thing they feel towards said girl. It wasn't just that they didn't listen. They also let me know how much they didn't like me and couldn't stand my class. Those long days would have looked a lot brighter if I felt like the kids were getting something out of it. But, I wouldn't be able to post this entry if there wasn't a bright side to the story.

I am not sure exactly what changed at the end of that first week. We all have van routes to pick up kids from all over town and bring them to the church everyday, and I remember spending the 25 minutes it took to get to the first house in almost desperate prayer for the day and for strength. One day I was exhausted and I decided to stay inside during their recess and I ended up talking with a couple of older girls in the youth group about my class. Now, looking back I kind of can't believe I spilled my difficulties with a couple of teenagers (one of them being an older sister of a girl in my class) from the church, but I did. They encouraged me, gave me advice, and then took it upon themselves to go up to my class and give them a "talkin to". What ended up happening was I almost cried in front of my class while they told all my kids why I am here this summer and how I won't be leaving any time soon. I was nervous that their talk did more harm than good, but after that talk every kid in the class came up and hugged me and started opening up. Maybe they finally saw me as a person, or maybe they realized how much I care about them. Honestly, God stepped in and allowed a couple of 16 year old girls to lift me up and open those kids' hearts towards me.

Class hasn't suddenly gotten perfect. I still struggle to get them to settle down after they've been outside, or read their books during literacy class. What has changed is the way they interact with me. They trust me, have fun with me, and are opening up their hearts to me. This group of kids is definitely different from any I have worked with. I am learning so much from them, just by realizing I don't know everything and their is no way I can handle it on my own. The Lord has taught me that encouragement and support can come from any direction, whether it's a couple of 16 year old girls, my fellow interns, or a 13 year old who takes up for me in class to the other students.

I am definitely getting a lesson in humility and patience. But the Lord is also giving me strength and wisdom when I don't have any. Each child is different, and I am learning that they all deserve to be treated accordingly. Every church camp, mission trip, or children's program I have worked for has taught me that we abide by structure and rules in order to keep things running smoothly. Each child was treated the same so that we didn't show favoritism. At Capitol Hill I am learning the opposite. Each child has a different story and a different home life. We are encouraged to take a kid to sonic if they are doing really well, or take them to a movie to make them feel special. With some kids we expect them to sit still and listen in class, but with others we consider it a victory if they are able to not make a scene or get out of their seat without asking. Yes, it can be a lot to deal with, but it's worth it to see a teenage girl learn to respect herself and make a pledge of purity. It's worth it to see a boy struggle through reading a paragraph and help him gain confidence. Each child is an individual, and we are doing our best to invest in them on an individual basis. Just as Christ takes a specific interest into each one of our lives, I am learning to build relationships with each individual child.

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