Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms. ~ Mark Twain
Disclaimer: this post is observational in nature, an opportunity for the author to voice concerns. It addresses a part of my job for which I have a passion…and few answers.
Thirteen years old is too young to have lost hope. When I consider my life, at thirteen, it was relatively care free. My biggest concerns were centered around social aspects of school and making the basketball team. I didn’t worry about clothes, or food, or whether I would go to college. In fact, I wasn’t that concerned about any aspect of my future. There was an assumption that everything would be alright.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of working with young people, in a large urban setting, is the number of students I encounter who appear to have lost hope for the future–those who fail to see anything good about their life, or are unable to foresee opportunities for their future. Kids struggling with family issues, fighting addiction, running with gangs–all disconnected from an educational system they see as irrelevant and unresponsive to their problems.
I recently viewed an award-winning documentary, about the Lost Boy’s of Sudan, entitled God Grew Tired of Us. The film followed three boys as they were relocated to the United States from the UN’s refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. It was an eye-opening, but heart-warming film about young men turning unthinkable tragedy into opportunity.
The optimism and perseverance displayed by these boy’s is something we should inspire to instill in all of ours students. In spite of immeasurable set-backs and disappointments, they seized upon the opportunities they were provided–many with a great deal of success.
When I am working with students who appear to have lost hope, we spend a lot of time discussing opportunities. Identifying the things that are within their power to control. Searching for small steps they can take to move in the right direction. Most importantly, developing a personal connection with someone they can trust–a “go-to” person on our campus. My hope is that by experiencing even a small level of success and connection, students will begin to see opportunities to seize upon and develop a sense of optimism for their future. It is a “one day at a time” process. Helping students identify their celebration moments.