I spent last weekend in Buena Vista at a four day launch course with Colorado Youth at Risk. Sue has been volunteering with this organization for the last three years. This is a cause she feels passionate about and she led the efforts for the mentor recruitment for two high schools, George Washington and Aurora Central.
Click here to watch a short video about this program.
There were many amazing moments over the four days. I had to keep reminding myself that these young people were only 14 or 15 years older. They have had some very powerful things that they have had to deal with at such a young age.
One of the young men that was in my cabin shared that he had been in a gang since he was seven years old.
Half of his life and he is 14. He proudly told us on Sunday that he has been drug free for the last three weeks.
14 years old, gang member and dealing with drug addiction. Just one of the stories we heard and I am afraid it is not than unusual of a story.
There were stories of rape, abuse, choices that led to a teenage pregnancy.
Many of the young people were very shut down, they would try to hide in their hoodies. Become ghosts.
One young girl who was absolutely beautiful and was so uncomfortable in her beauty would try and hide behind her coat, muffle her voice.
Friday the young people ran a "mile" and the instruction was to run at 100% the entire time. What possibilites could they find participating with that level of commitment? What would 100% look like? What would it feel like? Some ran the entire time, some had to walk some of the course. The elevation was almost 10,000 feet. I can attest that the air was rare as I had run(wheezed) my way through a couple of very painful runs.
Saturday, the activity was a ropes course.
There were several stations:
Leap of Faith, where the young people had to climb to a platform 30 feet off the ground and then leap for something.
Some lept for better relationships with their family, some lept for freedom from gangs, vilolence and drugs and even for Mickey Mouse.
One teen lept for her brother who is stationed in Afghanastan.
Everyone that made it to the platform was able to complete their leap of faith. One girl was not able to make it to the platform, but she was able to get higher than she thought she could.
Climbing the stairway to heaven.
The other activity that was very impactful was called the Freedom Fall. You stand on top of stage and fall stiff as a board off the stage into the arms of the other people on the team.
Everyone has to announce what they are falling for and the person who is falling has to have complete trust in the people that are about to catch him or her.
The people that are catching have to trust that the person that is falling will fall stiff as a board with their hands and arms clapsed together.
One of the things that was repeated over and over again last weekend was the statement that "I've got your back".
When you catch someone that is totally prone or fall into their arms, it really brings that home. You have to trust at 100% that you are safe.
I didn't want to do the freedom fall ,but after all the young people had done it the mentors wanted to do it and one by one I was the last one to go. One of the young people in my group gave me the coaching on what I was to do.
It was much harder than I thought it would be. I had to take several deep breaths to ground myself and I fell to have freedom of self expression and freedom to be playful. Two areas in my life where I get stopped.
So for me, there were many things last weekend that were all about building trust.
I was grateful that Sue was at the launch course and that we could share this with one another. One of the first little games we played was a mingling game and the facillitator give you a question to ask. "Who is the most positive person in your life"?. My answer was easy. That person is my wife, my best friend.
I was having a huge breakdown during one of the activities called the possibility walk. Every person had to walk across the course room and act totally foolish and no one could complete the walk the same way.
I stood there frozen, totally stopped. I could barely breathe. I just wanted to bolt out of the room and hide.
Sue confronted me, challenged me. I didn't like it one bit at the time, thought it was horrible coaching. Why is she being so mean?
There were fewer and fewer people left on my side of the room. I kept thinking I can't do this. That voice in my head that always tells me, I am not good enough was having a field day.
I finally ran across the floor and ran like Phoebe Buffet did in Friends , arms flailing wildy, and slid across the line at the other side of the room with a flourish. On the outside it all looked good and on the inside I was dying.
I felt trapped, humilated. I stood there shaking, my arms wrapped across my body. How in the world can I be a mentor and make a difference to someone if I can't do this one thing?
Later, I could see in that moment that is what this next year of mentoring might be like. It is not always going to be easy. There will be breakdowns and breakthroughs. The coaching Sue gave me was not what I liked, it was what I needed. Darn it!
Saturday night there was a letter that I wrote and burned during the forgiveness fire, another powerful and healing moment in my life that I shared with Sue.
I was inspired by many of these young men and women who shared their stories, at how they live their lives and that they are willing to imagine the possibility of something different, soemthing greater for themselves.
This week I want to give a shout out to two of my friends that are doing amazing things.
My friend Shayna is shaving her head next month to raise money for cancer research. Loma Linda Childrens hospital will be a reciepent of the money that Shayna raises. LLCH is the hospital where Laiken underwent treatment.
That is courage, giving up looking good. Standing in the possibility of a world without cancer. Standing for Laiken, Kelly and her Momma. Never giving up or giving in.
My other shout out goes to my friend Dane who is running a 202 mile relay race this weekend and the wrinkle in the challenge is he is running the race solo. You can follow his progress by clicking here.
What inspired you today?