I have a tendency to listen more than I advise. It makes me smile, being aware that I am capable of that particular attribute. #lifelessons
Volunteering has opened my eyes to so much more than an individual’s present circumstances. I volunteer with the Child and Adolescent population in different roles. Lately, my work has included working with teens that are recovering addicts. All male and of all races. They have my heart. It amazes me that so many are addicted, so young, so many trying to cope with life, their way.
I do not see myself as the typical counselor. As I journey towards licensure I pray that I do not lose sight of caring. The type of intimate caring with your heart that becomes easy to lose in all the rules, policies and regulations. I tend to mother first. I am quiet more than intrusive. I have learned in the most difficult way to be quiet, to listen.
It becomes laborious to think outside the box when policies and set therapeutic techniques are the norm. We cannot touch, hug, and show any kind of affection. We know not to preach, fuss, and become a parent to them. These rules are for my protection and quite different for me for I am a mother and I was raised old school in a two parent home. (Most of them just need a good switch and their mouths washed out with soap. I digress. Lol.)
One day while visiting the park, I listen to Brandon. He is 15 years old, Black, appears kind, great dimples. I ask, “When did you become aware of your family’s use of drugs?” He responds, “Four. I was four years old.” My heart breaks. He has seen a lot. He has become conducive to his environment. He has done more criminally than a grown man has. He is 15. Me, turning away because I am about to cry, “I would hug you but we can’t do that. You know there is more out here. More to life.” Him: “I like my environment Ms. Michelle.” Me, heart completely shattered: “I know. I know you do.”
Our conversation bothered me so much. Why should I be this bothered? He is receiving necessary help. I find out that this is his second time in. For weeks, the word “environment” and his predicament weighed heavy on me. I called my older sons, Damien and Darius. I questioned them on implementing a journal technique, getting the clients to write. Both respond: “Not sure why you think writing is going to help them kids.” It kind of hurts when your children tell you your thinking is off base. The more I learn of Brandon’s life, the more I felt helpless. My thoughts, he is receiving what he needs. He has counselors. He is going to his NA meetings. He is going to be fine.
Yet, the way he talked, his topic of conversation did not change. He was still going to rob people, commit home invasions, and maybe not get high as much but he would still carry out the same behavioral actions. The more I kept telling myself I could not improve the system the more depressed I became. Helping is about change. Volunteering is about improvement.
As God worked my heart, an idea began to form, EFL, Equine Facilitated Therapy. A proven therapeutic technique. I spoke with my Director. She gave me the go ahead to pursue. Throughout all the required business details, I kept quiet. I just knew this was going to fall through. I presented my proposal as a recreational activity. The Director accepted as an additional therapeutic technique for the Adolescent clients! My family responds: “Good, Momma.” I know this is huge; pretty mega. I laugh and I am so giddy.
Oh, how I wish I could share photos. I love confidentiality; I do but man I wish I could share photos. First session: the experience is exciting and unbelievable. Brandon, leader, aka tough guy is the most fearful. Kenny is as well. Remember, all these teens have some sort of record. Yet, they are quiet, scared, and respectful of these great creatures. Of the twelve, Brandon and Kenny hide behind me, and counselors whenever the horses move. At least eight, take to the horses. They are working as a team to guide, walk and command the horses. Kenny, the one so afraid is able to lead and command the toughest horse there.
As we are watching him, his counselor says to me: “He has been shot twice. Gangs are trying to kill him. He is a tough one. His dad abused him. His mom doesn’t want him.” As she is speaking, I am watching this child smile; laugh, talk and I cannot hold back my tears. Me: “I need to take the time to read their files.” Her: “You haven’t? You put all this together without reading their files. Look around you. I have never seen these boys this way. Good job.” I smile more, whisper to God a thank you and take more pictures. Brandon, my ringleader has not taken to any of the lessons given. He actually has the other clients surrounding him for protection. Smh, awesome leadership skills. He states he does not want to come back. (The EFL therapy is mandatory!) However, our second session he is riding. He even coaches and reassures me as I ride.
EFL is more for the teens but as I learn and bond with the horses, I am learning so much more about myself. At times, the sessions are so intensifying…its overwhelming to come face to face with your past, your Self in front of others. What I am learning about me at 46 years of age….I am a good person. That although I have been told otherwise and been made to feel inferior over the years I know that my heart is pure. I am proud of me, of who I am, of where this journey is leading me and it is wonderful to be okay with myself. #becoming
The responsibility of communicating with an animal that weighs up to 1600 pounds and it is just as furious about surviving as we are is humbling phenomenal. I come home completely drained from the experience, happy. The emotional, mental and spiritual content, connection is difficult to express, another reason I have not blogged for a while.
Listen to the nudges, pricks, ideas you receive. They should cause us to go deeper, reach further. The possibility of change begins within us. Do the necessary work, it will influence the future. We can.
Love the journey,