I just finished an immensely powerful weekend staffing a Torch Training Program at the Cesar Chavez School in LA. It has nothing to do with Organizing or Design, but I felt like sharing anyway.
If you would have told me six months ago that I would be mentoring a group of troubled teens in Compton, California -- I would have given you a "yeah, right" look and laughed the ridiculousness of that notion. I really couldn't stand kids, especially teenagers, especially from "high-risk" parts of town. I thought they were lazy, rude, obnoxious, stupid, and just plain bad. I was also pretty sure they had some choice thoughts of me as well.
Obviously, a lot changed in the past six months through my own personal growth and development work and so the opportunity to volunteer in this program arose. I decided to quiet the judgemental voices in my head and just commit to it 100%.
It turned out to be one of the most difficult, painful, exhausting experiences of my life. And yet somehow it also managed to be one of the most healing, happy, rewarding experiences of my life too. Let's face it, sometimes it just hurts to care about something or someone so deeply that we avoid it altogether. Yes, we avoid the pain, but we also never get the joy.
Many times this weekend, I struggled to keep my emotions together -- to keep myself from breaking down, to stay focused on being strong for these kids. The things that they have seen, done, and had done to them are not things that anyone should ever have to experience. And yet at only 16 or 17 years old, they have already lived a lifetime of pain and suffering.
All I wanted was for them to get the love, healing and compassion they so desperately needed and I still can't stop thinking, "did they get it? did I do enough? did we get through to them? did I make a difference?"
I know in my heart that the answer is "yes." I learned such a valuable lesson through this too -- that sometimes we avoid things in our life, in our world, because it just hurts too much to care. But, the only way to make a difference is to open our hearts and and let the pain flow through, and trust that pain will not last forever and that joy will fill it's place.