I was in the middle of watching a sermon on Youtube this morning when I kept getting this nagging thought about my calling. It's not an unfamiliar thought, just one that was so persistent I couldn't even finish the sermon. I have therefore spent the past 2 hours now trying to find scripture and stories in the Bible that align with what is perplexing me at the moment. The subject of the morning is purpose.
One of the most exciting moments in my life was last year when I got the call for a job I'd forgotten I had even applied for. Even in the interview, there was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn't get the job, and I am happy to say that it's 8 months later and I am still here. What is this job that I am talking about? The official title for my job is "youth worker" the unofficial reality is juvenile corrections worker. I've always wanted to do something with social work, psychology, or anything with adolescents. I have always wanted to reach if I could, at least one child in some shape form or fashion, this was my chance.
When I started this job before I even made it onto the floor in my new position I had doubts. I realized early on that personality-wise I wasn't quite a fit for what I was about to do. I don't like to yell and I don't like to scream at people, not that that is what the job requires, but I certainly didn't see myself as being as authoritative as I would need to be with this job. The more I learned about the job and the individuals we'd be dealing with the more I realized that with my upbringing there is nothing I could possibly have in common with these children as far as life experience goes. I was a sheltered child. My life consisted of church, every activity afforded to me, and even as an adult the most I'd ever had to contend with is mediation for a fight with a neighbor. Square peg, round hole. I just don't seem to fit.
As time goes on and I get to know my coworkers and their life stories and experiences better I still feel out of place. They have the "been there done that" stories that children can listen to and hopefully learn from and I basically have "And this one time, at band camp."
And just like that, something clicked in my head. I've been sitting here thinking about this and focusing on what I am not, and I've completely dismissed who it is I have become over the past 8 months. I've actually been talking about it for the past 2-3 weeks and I'm just now realizing it. When I started this job I was somewhat of a pushover. I gave chance after chance, was lax in some of the things I allowed the residents to do, and in turn, they ended up just walking on top of me for the most part. However, as time has passed I've begun to stand firm in my decisions and the things I will and will not put up with. From the start of this journey, I have been asking myself the wrong question. Instead of asking what is it, I have to offer these kids? The question is what is it I'm supposed to learn from them?
When I first started this job I looked at them as children and in all rights, there are just children. I found myself having to remember that even though they are children, some of them are children who have done some very grownup things, that some are not just there for a minor weed possession charge or a simple runaway charge. These children have real-life problems. I can't tell you how many of them have such bad relationships with there parents that they are not even on their contact sheets. I've even had a kid that didn't have anyone they could contact other than their social worker or attorney. Their stories and experiences have been a wakeup call for me. It has reminded me that even when I feel like I fail as a mother I'm doing something right. There was this one instance that really sticks out to me. There was a kid that asked me if I whooped my children, I told them that I do not. He looked at me and said I wish you were my mom. It was a sweet thing to say but it was one of the saddest things I'd heard. Some of these kids have been ignored and abused and the most structure that they have ever had has been from being in our facility.
I truly don't know if I have helped or influenced any of these kids in any way, but I do know that they have helped and influenced me. I understand better my prejudices and misgivings about what some of the youth I see on the streets have been through, and for that, I am a better person. I started this job thinking about what it is I have to offer the kids and it's them who have had the most influence on me. This only fuels my motivation to get my degree in psychology and focus on helping the children that need it.