Thursday, February 23, 2006

i just love this kid

After I got my degree, I got a great job doing exactly what I wanted--working with grieving kids. Day after day, week after week, I sat in comfy chairs with hurting kids, doing art projects and talking about anger and sadness and death and heaven. At the same time, Ben was doing his chaplaincy internship at the city's trauma hospital. We started out that summer talking about our days and our clients(protecting their privacy of course), but soon it got to be too much. He was meeting families right in the midst of their trauma--drive-by shooting, stabbing, miscarriage--and I was getting them a few months down the road. It was pretty intense. I always knew I could handle the stress, as long as I didn't try to do it on my own. But obviously the whole taking your work home with you thing wasn't working either.

At the time, a colleague of mine offered some excellent advice on how to stay commited to my work without burning my family out. Every time she would meet with a client, she would pray for them afterwards, sending all their concerns and hurts and bruises and aches right up to God, asking for help and guidance to see them through their pain. She often envisioned each one like a bubble, floating right up into heaven. Since that piece of advice, I've tried (and oftentimes failed, though I am getting better) to offer the needs of my kids to something far greater, far bigger than this simple servant. After all, these are big problems, and I am so small.

So today I met with A, a sixteen year-old kid who is handsome, gifted, funny and good-hearted. It just so happens that trouble finds him no matter where he goes. His mom died about a year and a half ago and since then things have gone downhill fast. He came into my office angry, sullen, hardly making eye contact and fidgeting in his chair as he shared about almost getting in another fight his first day back from suspension. He told me people label him "angry" and "bad" and he's starting to believe them.

My heart just sunk and I found myself (as I am now learning to do) praying right in the middle of my session. It usually goes something like: "God help me find the words to bring truth to this kid, who needs truth so badly right now." And so I say to A, "You know, you don't have to be who other people think you are. I believe that's not who you are, that there's more to you." Now, anytime I say something like this to a kid there is a good chance they will throw it right back in my face, because the lies are so big and so loud and sometimes easier to believe than truth. He turned to look me right in the eye and I swear I could see into his broken soul for just a moment in time. His face softened and he told me that for the first time that day, when confronted by his peer, he heard a voice in his head tell him "walk away, it's not worth it, you don't want to fight." Now, the trouble with my kids is, they give me what psychotherapists call countertransference. Basically, I wanted to pull that big ol' kid right into my arms and hug him and hug him again and tell him everything is going to be okay. But of course I didn't because then I would never see him again. But he shared that he just might believe there is more to him than feeling angry because he was able to walk away from a fight, and he was able to listen to the voice that calmed him down, and, in my own words, he didn't give into the fire burning in his fists and radiating up to his heart.

Now I know this kid, like I know my other students. He will be back in my office in a week, and maybe not then, but in the future there will be other fights, other lies, and the strong voice of darkness and despair knocking at his door. But for today, I call a win for the light side, the good guys, truth, whatever you want to call it. All I know is, I feel great now. And my kid is back in class, calmer, maybe even learning.

No comments: