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Friday, May 23, 2014


I don’t remember how, but at some point in the recent past, I acquired a Lululemon bag. One of those red and white ones with text all over it. I pack my lunch and dinner in it every day before work.

One of the sentences on it is that pervasive quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Do one thing a day that scares you."

I’m bad at this.

I like to stay squarely in my comfort zone and have a hard time doing new things.

And yet.

My job is kinda scary.

I work with the kind of kids that people avoid on the street. Because they’re loud or aggressive and seemingly have nowhere to go. They gather in groups and take up a lot of space and have the hard exteriors of kids who are growing up in a city.

But they come to where I work, to be in a band or a play or to get a job or play basketball. To feel safe and part of a community and to be seen and heard and included.

At work, I walk into large groups of tall young men every day and tell them all to take their hats off and find a program area to go to.

That used to scare me. But only a little.

I am sometimes in charge of the whole three-story building, staff members looking to me for directions on what to do next. I shuffle everyone out, make sure they’re all getting home safe, and arm the door at the end of the night.

When I think about that too much, it scares me.

So I don’t.

Yesterday, one of my mentees, a 15 year old whom I’ve known since she was 12, got into a terrible confrontation with a teacher at her school.

So this morning, I showed up at her suspension hearing.

I have never been to one of those before. And I didn’t know what to expect.

And I sat with the school facilitator and with my mentee’s mom and with my mentee while I heard the whole story and she cried and shook and swore. I put my hand on her knee and trusted my instincts and my skills to calm her down, and I made her promise to follow through with a short-term plan, and I urged her to thank the administrator and I asserted to her that she had an army of people who supported her, and when she calmed down and even laughed as we ended the meeting, and when she showed up at work to practice piano and we chatted and laughed about when we first met, I hoped and wished that my words and support had poked through her steely, defensive façade.

It was kind of a scary day.

The amazing thing was, I wasn’t scared. 

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