We Lost a Kid Today: What Happens When We Get Relationships Wrong

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Monday Morning Message
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As we mentioned last week, kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care. More importantly, if a young person doesn’t feel valued or accepted, they will vote with their feet and you may never see them again. The following is a true story of what happens when we don’t understand the power that healthy relationships play in our clubs written by my friend Glenn Procopio.

I walked into the bank that morning, excited, thinking about the afternoon youth group meeting to begin in just a few short hours. We had new programs, new kids, a great staff, visitors were coming regularly–things were going great. But then as I deposited my check, I spotted a parent of one of our kids. Pam worked at the bank and her daughter, Hillary, had visited a couple of months before. Hillary was shy, but I thought she’d made some new friends at our winter retreat and was solidly into the group.

Wrong assumption. My conversation with Pam was a blow. Hillary wasn’t coming back. This shy kid was desperate to belong, to make new friends, but with all the kids we had coming each week, she couldn’t find even one new friend. The teen who invited her to the meetings consistently left her alone after they arrived, spending time with other friends and leaving Hillary feeling out of place. The staff helped but Hillary needed peers.

When I returned to work, my office seemed lifeless. I slumped into my chair and began banging away at the computer keys. The result was something that I shared with my volunteer staff and, later on, the teens:

We lost a kid today.

She wasn’t exuberant. She wasn’t the school’s most popular student. She didn’t have a smile that would cause the boys to swoon and the girls to envy. She didn’t have a laugh that was contagious.

So we lost her.

The fact that she’s missing won’t be a particular blow to the group. She was so quiet that hardly anyone noticed when she was there. She was one of the myriad of faces that we come into contact with each week, each one craving something that all want–a place to call her own, and a place about which she could say, “This is MY youth group.” She longed for a place to belong and she didn’t find it.

So we lost a kid today.

We didn’t lose her because of our facility, nor did we lose her because the leaders weren’t adequate. We didn’t lose her because we had the wrong program. The program was great; the program was vibrant, and it was here that she began to discover her passions, learned of leadership and meet new people. It’s just that, when the meeting was done, and it was time to pack up, there was no one she perceived who cared about her enough to keep on hanging out and keep on caring after the meeting was over.

What she saw was a pegboard with holes of various shapes and sizes except for one her shape, her size. There was no friend to tell her that each hole is custom-cut for the individual. We lost her because she didn’t find something she desperately needed, something we, as fellow people, are supposed to supply. We lost a kid today. For as she looked into the eyes of all those coming and going, she didn’t see caring and acceptance for her there.  She was seeking someone who would call her “friend,” not just out of politeness but real friendship, a kinship that comes from deep connectedness with others.

The following week Hillary was back, and this time, surrounding her were teens and adults who had caught a glimpse of their basic need – to care and connect with one another.

We found a kid today.

 

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