Tuesday, January 28, 2014

what's your story?

 photo Hello1_zps7ec95db6.jpg

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past that has molded them into the person they are today. Everyone is fighting a battle and overcoming challenges I know nothing about. And yesterday, I was reminded of just that. I had the opportunity to volunteer at my fourth Challenge Day at the high school where I coach.

During Challenge Day there is an activity called "Cross the Line." Statements are read by the facilitator and participants are asked to cross the line if that statement is true for them. The whole activity is done in silence and is incredibly moving. Participants are at their most vulnerable, crossing the line and revealing things about themselves in front of more than 100 people. It's my favorite part of the day, and the most emotional for me.

The most emotional part is seeing the students crossing the line for heartbreaking reasons. Looking at these kids, seeing how they act, hearing how they talk, you would never know the pain and struggles they face every day. Often teens get stereotyped, but the truth is, if you took the time to listen to them, hear their story and get to know them, you would understand why they act the way they act, or do the things they do.

We all hold back emotions, things we can't say or show, or admit that we feel - blowing them into our balloon. But what happens when you keep blowing and blowing air into a balloon? It pops. And when it comes to filling our balloon with emotions and all the things we can't say or show, the balloon starts to leak in the form of acting out, saying hurtful things, harming ourselves or others, etc. So often times the bullying, attempts of suicide, teasing, judging, etc. are the leaks from someone's balloon {aka cries for help or attempts to numb their own pain}.

Instead of judging these teens and stereotyping them, I got a chance to learn parts of their story. I got to peek inside of their world and what it's like to be them. And these kids are going through some tough stuff. Stuff that as an adult I cannot fathom having to deal with. Yet, often times these teens are expected to just deal with the pressure, the pain, the fear, the harm that they face. But they cannot do it alone. Sometimes they just need someone to listen, to hug them, to support them. And that is exactly what Challenge Day is all about.

Challenge Day allows them to drop their waterline, to move past the image they present to the world and get real about what it's like to be them, to live their life. And it is so powerful, and moving, and emotional, and amazing. I cannot say it enough - if you have the opportunity to volunteer for Challenge Day at a high school near you, do it. These kids need positive role models in their lives. They need someone to listen, to hug them, to care and to tell them it's all going to be OK. And most importantly, they need a safe space in which they can open up and not feel judged for who they are or what they are going through, or have overcome.  

Everyone has a story. A story with highs and lows, life lessons learned, and obstacles that have made them who they are today. And there is an event called Challenge Day that gives high school students and adult volunteers the opportunity to share parts of their stories, to get real. A safe place where stereotypes are disproven, judgment is suspended and a lot of hugs are given. And it is powerful.

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