I have a confession to make. Not a shocking confession but more of an ‘I’m a bit of a nit-twit’ confession. So we’re in the run-up to Christmas and that often means school nativity plays, carol concerts, carols by candlelight, and generally young children looking angelic or sweet (even if they do a mighty good impression of the devil the rest of the time). And well, I sit in these performances or I stand with them while singing and there is always a point where I have to try really really hard not to cry. One of my children doesn’t have to be involved. It even happens to me when I watch the ‘Nativity!’ film/movie. It wells up within me and it takes all my internal power to keep the tears in.
‘Oh my word, she’s bonkers’, I hear you say, and well I can’t really disagree. But why am I telling you this? Well it’s because I have worked out what it is that does it to me and I think it’s actually a by-product of my work and constantly thinking about the challenges that face our young people.
So all our teens were young children once. All our teens, the moment they were born (aside from those affected by mothers struggling with addiction or domestic violence etc when they were pregnant) were born with a clean slate. They had not been damaged by the world, they had not been damaged by experience, they had not been damaged by other people. Out they came and the world was their oyster. At the moment of birth they had the greatest potential, and the same goes even for those that had already experienced difficulties in the womb. Their whole lives were before them.
And that is what makes me cry in these services and concerts. As the children sing and act I am bowled over by their potential, by the sheer weight of the possibility bursting out of those churches, of those school halls. Even those who may already be experiencing or have experienced the most terrible traumas and pain, there is still hope, there is still a future.
The thing is that when we work with our troubled teens and they are being SO difficult, SO uncooperative and SO self-destructive it can sometimes be easy to begin to think that the die is cast, there is nothing that can really be done. They seem to be on the train to addiction or prison or both and there does not seem to be any room for hope for change.
In those moments I find that it helps to remember that they are still really children, they are still malleable and that no-one is beyond hope. There is still the possibility of change, buried deep down within the undesirable behaviour and attitude, there is still great potential. It’s just that life has been trying to silence it and has often been doing such a good job that we and the teen themselves cannot hear it. We have lost all hope.
So we need to take them back to their hopes and dreams as small children. We need to remind ourselves that they have just as much potential now as they did then. If we don’t believe it, then neither will they. And aside from anything else, it helps us to keep plugging away and refusing to give up, which is what they need more than anything else. They need a nit-twit of a woman or a man who cares so much and can see through all the stinking mud to that child who once stood in a school hall as a shepherd, or sang in that choir as an angel and was just bursting with potential.
Merry Christmas to you all! May you have the rest you need, the peace you crave, and joy in abundance whether you are working or not over the Christmas period.
I thank you for the work that you have done with young people over the last year, because chances are no-one else is going to. I thank you that you care enough to read more about how to help them and come and read this blog. We are often not thanked enough and beaver away in the background with little recognition, so I just wanted to say that you are seen and I think you’re ace!