At this point in my term of service I had been in the house for at least 3 or 4 months; and this particular resident spent a substantial amount of time in his room (I usually don’t go up there because it’s the only personal space the residents have in the entire house. I am not sure how or why I got him to stay in a common area but he came downstairs and started talking to me about school or some Aaliyah song he was just reading the lyrics to or something; just before he could say anymore I offered him an opportunity to help me on a piece of fabric I had in the closet for Project Linus. In typical S.D. Fashion I had to bribe him in order to get him to help me for sure; I told him if he helped me finish the blanket he’d be able to take a picture with it.
As we began to tie the knots all around the edges of the blanket, he took notice of the uneven edges on the blanket. I had been well aware of this error on the fringes of this particular piece of fleece we were working with, I guess this aggravated him a bit. Instead of focusing on the fact that we were working with an imperfect piece of fabric; (and my brain being what it is I caught that one train of thought that he had about the uneven pieces of fabric, and used it as a teachable moment) I offered to him that sometimes people come out a bit uneven on the edges, and it’s sometimes up to others to help glue them back together again. I am not sure how much of what I said was received by S.D., but I would’ve hoped that he didn’t take it as a slight at his character. Sometimes within my site when I am relating to the youth that I serve I have to be cautious of the way I approach them about issues like this, and where I go with teachable moments. Or else it’ll begin to feel like the part of the ‘after school special’ where the soft music plays and the writers try and bring home the point of their morality tales. And quite frankly I feel like I am somebody’s corny uncle.
With some of the issues the youth I work face I try my best not to put it center stage; lest I embarrass them in front of their peers of just embarrass them in a general conversation. I try to handle it as best I can in this particular exchange I was trying to convey to S.D. that all people have frailties that make them imperfect, I was including myself in that conversation. But I’d been told in orientation never discuss my personal issues with the clients. So the above was my way around this; even though I would never bleed my heart out to a 15 year old kid I thought this particular teachable moment lent to me an opportunity to become human for S.D. instead of ‘Mr. Bikim the AmeriCorps mentor guy.’