Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Training exercise

This week should be pretty exciting for me and for my co-workers and for some kids who come from some hurtful backgrounds. I recently accepted a job working for New Horizons, a company which works with families and children who are either at risk for all sorts of legal, physical, and emotional problems or have already experienced them. Specifically, I'll be working as part of the direct care staff at the Audrey Grace House, a residential treatment center for troubled adolescents.

As part of our training, the staff of AGH spent some time at the Ranch, in Goldthwaite, TX, another of New Horizon's facilities. Early in our training, the instructor, Randy Fry, led us in an exercise that was designed to give us some perspective into the lives of the kids we'd be serving. He asked us each to take a sheet of paper and tear it into three smaller pieces. On each slip of paper, we were instructed to jot down a person, place or thing that was important to us, personally. Nobody shared what they wrote down, but we were further instructed to stack them in order of importance. Silently, we each weighed our connection to the person/place/thing on each slip of paper and sorted them accordingly. Then Randy said, "Now that you have listed and sorted the three things that are most important to you, take the third most important thing, crumple it up and throw it away. Imagine that it was ripped from you." We each did as we were instructed, crushing the slip of paper into a wad and tossing it into the middle of the circle of chairs. "Now, you've lost that important thing, but what if your next most valuable thing was also taken away from you? Throw away your next paper." Slowly, we processed the implication of what Randy was saying. Several of us hung on to our papers, the weight of what they represented in our lives holding us back. "Go on, throw them away, " said Randy quietly. When we'd all tossed our crumpled treasures in the middle, he instructed us to do it one final time. "Now, take that thing that is most important to you and throw away too." As each of us considered the person/place/thing we'd written on the slip of paper, the paper became more than a paper, it was a real thing. It represented, for most of us, a spouse, a parent, a child, or a relative. We sat in silence for a few moments. Then Randy said, "This little exercise that we've just done is what happens in reality for most of the kids that come to us. They have had their homes, their families, their treasures all ripped away from them. It is understandable that they are scared, angry, fearful, resentful. Most people have a hard time seeing the kid underneath their acting out behavior."

We spent a while processing what we were feeling during the exercise. For me, I'd had a bit of a dilemma trying to select what three things were most important. I have three children and a wife... those are four things and I only got three slips of paper. On one of the slips of paper, I'd written the name of my son, Ethan. I had decided to let him represent all three of my kids because he has been the child who has, until recently, demanded so much of my attention because of his diabetes. When it came time to crumple up and throw away that slip of paper, I couldn't do it. Intellectually, I knew that it was just a piece of paper and this was just a training exercise. Emotionally, I was experiencing a shadow of the pain and hurt that losing him, losing any of my children, would bring. The thought occurred to me then, in the middle of the exercise, that because of his medical condition, the possibility of losing him was more of a reality than I'd like to admit. All it would take is a lapse in our vigilance with his diabetes and he could be in a coma within a day.

The point of the exercise was to help this group of staff, who will be working directly with hurting kids, develop empathy, an ability to see past their anger and acting out and to love them. It was a good exercise.

Keep the Audrey Grace House in your prayers as we begin a journey with this new facility.

God, be with the staff as you bring these kids into our circle of influence. Give us eyes to see them as you see them. Use us as your arms to comfort them, your hands to guide them and your voice to encourage them to grow and prosper despite their trauma. Be with the kids and help them to be responsive to the love that we have to offer them. So many of them have developed a hardness, a shell meant to protect them from being hurt or disappointed yet again. Bless the work of the treatment center as we help the kids to learn about themselves and learn to function at home, at school. Heal the hurts and let your grace and mercy abound, in their lives and in ours. Shape us into the instruments of your love and mercy, as we have received them from your Son.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Small world. I was almost sent to New Horizons outside Goldthwaite and Randy Fry's father baptized me.