I have been working for a couple of years with an organization in Calgary – Families Matter. We have been exploring how to create an organization that is continually evolving and learning. A key piece of this is reflecting in the organization the values that you have developed in working with the people you serve. Families Matter serves children and families and this story from their March Newsletter is an inspiring snapshot of love, support, compassion and thoughtful action. This organization and the two kids in the story exemplify these core human values.
Children have an ability to sense when others need love and support, and can effortlessly be-come the mature rock that their friends require in that moment of need. In our After School program, two boys, we will call them Johnny and Bobby, for confidentiality reasons, are the toughest young men who have had to survive difficult individual circumstances. Bobby’s family life isn’t ideal and Johnny has faced diagnoses that limit his abilities to interact positively with peers and as a result, spends much of his time alone. They are very different personalities, but similar in that they have both have had a tough journey.
They did not play, talk or sit near each other, and after almost 6 weeks in this program, neither boy knew the other ones name. When interacting in groups was required, these boys were magnets with the opposite poles; they simply did not acknowledge each other what-so-ever.
Last week while playing a competitive game, Bobby gave his all, yet ended up coming in last place. We talked about what made this activity difficult and how he might try something different to achieve a different outcome. A girl in the class insisted the activity was not hard at all, and was easy and effortless. Bobby felt worse about not finishing at all and started to cry and put himself down. He hit his head with his palms, and stomped his feet. I prepared to go into “problem solving” mode but before I could do so, Johnny sat down next to Bobby. He explained that just because the activity was easy for the other kid, didn’t mean that Bobby wasn’t any good. In fact, Johnny said that he really liked the idea Bobby had in finishing the activity and that the same effort would probably win other games we play because it was so brilliant. Then Johnny said 2 things, “Hey, could you show me how you did that? It was super fly!” The second was, “I won this prize earlier today and I want to give it to you for trying so hard, is that okay?”
Johnny’s empathy and respect gave Bobby a new emotion to focus on. He went from sad, angry and disappointed, to happy, proud and hopeful. Johnny’s reaching out to Bobby made him feel safe and purposeful. After, Johnny put it quite simply, “I just thought he could use a friend.” Since this event, the two have been inseparable. They solved a complex issue together in a most unexpected way.