Wednesday, January 26, 2011

challenge day

Yesterday, I volunteered as an adult facilitator for Challenge Day at a local high school. It was a very emotionally draining day, but I was so proud of the students for opening up to strangers, hugging old friends and new, making public apologies, and committing to be the change.

Challenge Day is a one-day program that strives to build connection and empathy among students, and spark a movement toward compassion and positive change, known as the Be the Change movement.

We played games where we had to pair up with people didn't know or normally wouldn't choose to be partners with, we played team games, we broke into small family groups, and we opened up about our true feelings. In my small family group, I led four students through activities called "If you really knew me." It was very emotional to see these students dig deep into themselves to reveal those scary, buried feelings and events that have happened in their lives. One student talked about her alcohol addiction that almost killed her, and how she has changed her life for the better and found God. Another student talked about how he is happy-go-lucky and loves to be pushed to be better, but went through a period where he couldn't even look at himself in the mirror because he thought he wasn't good enough.

I couldn't hold in my tears for these kids and the things I revealed about myself. But these tears were not a sign of weakness. These tears are about pushing forward and making positive changes in the future. It was truly an out-of-my-comfort zone activity.

Another activity that hit me hard was "Cross the Line." Students were crossing the line for things that no child should ever have to deal with in their lives, but unfortunately some of them see every day. I think not crossing the line with them sometimes and looking across at their faces, so sad and tear-streaked, was the hardest part.

The day wasn't all tears though. There was dancing, cheering, hugging, high-fiving, and laughter. I felt a sense of freedom in talking to these students and hugging people I don't think I would ever have thought to hug. But a hug and smile can truly brighten someone's day, and we don't do enough of it on a daily basis. There are so many hurtful words that we spat toward one another instead that we don't take the time to understand where a person might come from or deal with every day. Most of the time, we lack pure compassion for other people. We hurt the people closest to us and think that we can always apologize tomorrow. But what if that person you fought with today wasn't there tomorrow? What if you never had the chance to apologize? Many students used Challenge Day as an opportunity to make amends and apologize.

It was a truly powerful, emotionally draining day, but it was an amazing experience. I was so proud of each of those students for having the guts to spill, well, their guts. To cry in front of strangers, and to hug each other with true compassion. Every student, child, person deserves to feel safe, happy and loved. We all have the choice to be the change we wish to see in the world. I hope I can be part of that change.

Challenge Day challenges students and participants to Notice what's happening around them, Choose to live the life they envision for themselves, and Act and make the commitment to be the change.

Be the Change. It's all about choice. And we all have a choice.


Megan said...

There is that MTV show that use to be on about this and I always thought it looked like such a good idea/cause! And I'd tear up as well =/ lol. It seemed to work - at least for the day.

I will say though that I am interested in seeing how long the changes last and if it bled over to the other students who didn't participate.

Is the school going to be on the show? lol.

Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean said...

still think this is so awesome! i was so into this when i saw the show on it on tv. you're amazing for being a part of it!

Holly said...

Too bad I won't be on TV, but the cause is great. And Megan, I hope the effects and experiences of that day stick with these high schoolers and that they really can start being nicer to one another. Not sure how long it will last, but it was an inspiring day/event nonetheless!

Brittany said...

That is amazing. I wish we could do something like this in elementary. To show other students that's everyone has problems.

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