I walked into the office of Walter G. Byers Elementary School yesterday, signed the guest sign-in form, and put the “VISITOR” sticker on my chest. As I waited for my partner in crime, James, I just tried to take it all in. James arrived, we talked over our agenda and then our school liaison led us down the hall toward our students. The school is incredibly clean and over-the-top quiet. I felt bad even talking at all, in fear of getting detention. 🙂 So, we arrived at where the students were in between classes. A teacher liaison helped organize the students to come with us to the room that we would be meeting. We followed a line of 10 5th graders to room F-14 and there it began. My expectations were far from met. I anticipated troubled youth, kids with behavior issues, and having a lack of respect for authority. (This was based out my own ignorance and insecurity) We introduced ourselves, had them introduce themselves, and then we talked about dreams. We asked the proverbial kids question, “what do you want to be when you grew up”? And their answers ranged from millionaire, to doctor, to just go to college, football player, and even a professional fisherman. But the one answer that really stood out to me and broke my heart, was the answer of a young man with an infectious smile. He said “I don’t know”. Now I am no John Maxwell or Seth Godin, but somewhere in this boys life, someone should have come alongside of him and helped to cultivate an image of what the future would hold. Unfortunately, too often, in America’s lower income areas, the idea is not to thrive, but just survive. But James and I are going to do what we can to help these young people shape their futures towards brighter things.
As the time went on, we shared names, laughs, high fives, and hearts. But the greatest thing that I came away with were the smiles. Kids who maybe were going home to poverty, home to an empty house, home to no love, or maybe they were heading home to confusion, mass chaos, or what they consider normal. And they still smiled. But either way, they headed home at 1:45 pm. We processed with the city club coordinator and then had some questions answered. Then we walked. Walked down the same hallway, saw some of the same kids, the same staff, and prayed, silently. I prayed that boundaries would shrink, that barriers would fall, and that love would prevail. We left the school office, where we signed out, and on the way out, the same child who had no idea what he wanted to be, shouted with excitement, “We get to do this next Tuesday, right?” And it was right then that I knew that love had prevailed that day.
And that was DAY 1 of Right Moves For Youth at Walter G. Byers Elementary School.