I realized that I’ve never written here about my current job. And I figure, hey, 14 months in isn’t too late.
When I decided to move north two winters ago, I had no idea what I was going to be getting myself into. I practiced talking myself up for interviews, bought a new cardigan (I seize any and all opportunities to do that…my last roommate and I once figured out that we had upwards of 25 between us…but I digress), and started looking for jobs that involved working with a lot of people.
After realizing that the “social service” field wasn’t as ripe with opportunities as I had once hoped, I broadened my scope and ended up as the coordinator of a Teen Center at a Boys & Girls Club. Essentially, I traded spending time with homeless women and children for hanging out with low-income at-risk teenagers (this is how they have been defined to me. I generally define them as “outrageous”, ambiguous as that may be).
I still have a hard time explaining what exactly it is that I do, and all that this position entails. Sometimes it’s as crazy as simultaneously running two mentoring programs while teaching a class on financial literacy or planning a 12-hour overnight event. Other times it’s teaching teens how to play board games so I can beat them…I mean…teach them good sportsmanship…
It’s interesting how my time at the Mission prepared me for my time at the Club. I have attempted to cultivate just the right amount of genuine care and seemingly lackadaisical demeanor that inadvertently tricks people into trusting me. The techniques I used with former addicts who preferred arguing to listening are the same ones I use for 14-year-old’s who would rather play Minecraft than learn about leadership and community service.
Though I would hope it goes without saying, Jesus is just as present here as he was there. I can still tell when I am spending too much time relying on my own strength to get through each day, because programs tend to fall apart and I find myself becoming annoyed by the most ridiculous things. It’s also those times that I tend to focus on the transitional nature of this job–I know that I’m not going to be there for very much longer, and it’s easy for me to get caught up in that, to think only of the future instead of being present in the here and now.
This all goes back to the idea of waiting that I’ve been mulling over–this truth that regardless of the season we are in, we are in some way being prepared for things to come. And we have to hold onto that, lest we go crazy always wanting to be somewhere else. For example, I know that this season has already taught me much about what Jesus is actually calling me into. While I was sure for so long that it was specifically ministering to those who find themselves homeless, I am realizing more and more that what I get most excited about is the equipping and sending out of all people. When I was at the Mission, I found the most joy in the situations that resulted in learning; whether the person in question all of a sudden realized a bit more about their true worth or they realized what small steps they needed to start taking, it is those things that I still think about.
And even now, I get to be a part of equipping and sending out: I have daily conversations with teens that result in the reshaping of their concepts of respect or tolerance or gratitude, and then I get to watch them go and live that out with each other and with their families. Instead of working directly with every demographic of people that I want to, I am learning to center myself in one and then send them out to the rest. Funny that it took me so long to figure this out, because it’s the model Jesus himself used, when he first spent time with his disciples and then sent them out to do the work that he couldn’t be directly present for (Matthew 28:16-20). Please note that I am in no way trying to equate myself with Jesus; rather, I’m just reiterating the fact that this idea of Jesus-replicating discipleship is straight from the Bible.
Anyway, let’s set that aside for another time. If you made it to the end of this somewhat rambly post, I applaud you. And I leave you with these snippets of what my days at the Club are sometimes like:
The other day I was at a park that’s essentially in the backyard of the Club and a 6-year-old wandered away from her group because she wanted to be with the teens. I asked her to please go back with the other kids, and she let me know, very matter-of-factly, that she was going to bite herself to death if I made her go back.
There’s another kid who, upon learning that we had temporarily banned glitter from the Club, brought her own from home and proceeded to “share the love” by spreading it across every single surface she could before someone finally stopped her.
And then there are my teens. At least once every other week, they tell the story of how, on one of our drives from their school back to the Club, I ran over a curb with the van. In their retelling, they maintain that I nearly killed all of them, neglecting to mention the fact that I was actually avoiding being hit by a car. They also remind me often of my singleness and that they’re sure I’m going to live alone with multiple cats if ever I reach adulthood (their words, not mine).
At least they’re keeping me grounded.