When you work with youth, there is always that fear that the kids won’t like you. If you have worked with kids before and have always been well liked by them, you will still have that fear when joining a new group of kids. You worry you are not cool enough, smart enough, or funny enough. It doesn’t help that as adults many times we are not as cool as the kids would like. When I started at EMS I wasn’t hated; I just didn’t connect. The kids would say hello and tolerate me, but none ever seemed happy to see me or very willing to hang out. This bothered me but I still wanted to help out. Though I prefer when kids like me, I understand that they don’t have to.
I accepted the fact that the kids didn’t like me right around the time when a new student started coming to EMS. Her hair was dyed blue and she thought it was rebellious, she thought that we (as leaders) would judge her. I was excited because I have also dyed my hair. In fact I have dyed my hair about ten different colors! I looked at her, smiled and said, “I like your hair. I used to have blue hair too.” The look of shock on her face was priceless. I don’t know what shocked her more, the compliment, or me readily admitting I’ve had blue hair. This started a conversation about the rest of the colors we’ve dyed our hair. It was something as simple as having dyed my hair that connected me to Amelia.
Ever since that conversation she’s been excited to see me. She’s happy when I show up to EMS and she talks to me on Facebook. I’ve started to have lunch with her at school and I can see that this means a lot to her. Her liking me has gotten a few more students to wonder if I’m maybe worth their time. It has given me a new chance to connect with students that have been going to EMS since before I started.
It’s weird how our relationships with kids can start. When Amelia and I started talking, it was about hair. Our conversations quickly moved to school and art before they started slowing down. We continued to talk about our day-to-day lives but it never went deeper. I tried asking leading questions and she would answer them simply and not give me any more of who she was. It was tough because I didn’t think we were talking about important things.
One night, during EMS, Amelia asked a couple of hard questions. Due to time limitations we decided we would talk afterwards. We had a deep conversation which focused on only one of her questions. Amelia opened up about her life. She told me about her family and the things that weighed on her heart. Amelia opened the door to us talking about more than just school.
Sometimes I seem to assume that I’m the only one responsible for making things work out. It’s my responsibility to be liked. It was my job to get Amelia to talk. It’s my job to change kids’ lives. It’s my job to save them. In reality, it’s not. God has placed me in the lives of these kids, in Amelia’s life. I don’t get to know all the details, but I get to love them. I get to be there for them and if they let me, I get to share life with them. All I have to do is show Christ to the kids and live out the Gospel through my actions and words. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.