I wish I had some photos of the retreat, but I don't. Their teacher, Mr. Wallace, took a bunch, but I'm not sure if they're for public, especially internet, use. So, I'll use my best writing skills to describe the day, and provide you with a photo of my guys who inspire me everyday to be the best person I can be.
Shaved heads to swim faster for sections and state.
Tootin' your own horn.
Feeling joy and love of being your authentic self.
I'm one of those moms who loves to volunteer for school, especially fieldtrips. I'll be the first to raise my hand and sign up for anything that has to do with the arts, but I've gone on other types of events, too. I hope the 8th grade teachers will let me chaperone when they go to the theatre for The Diary of Anne Frank (hint, hint). I've been to camps and picnics and overnighters at retreat centers. I told the boys that I'd signed up for this one-day event because they needed small group leaders, and I've been a small group leader for... "ever," they both said.
This is a high energy experience for both the kids and adults. I wished I had worn a t-shirt and gym shoes. They encouraged us to participate to the fullest, be the first group to run across the large group circle, jump and dance, stand up, sit down, you get the picture. It was an aerobic day. I had visions of sitting in a small circle with my 5 or 6 kids and visiting. We did that, too. But, the large group, energetic time was to help us all relax, laugh, move and have fun together, so that when we got into those smaller groups, we'd be more open to sharing our fears and hopes for building a better community.
The presenters are high energy, caring leaders who readily share their own stories of when they were feeling left out, or could have made a better decision to include or help others. They have backgrounds in performance, music, and working with youth groups. Their entire presentation gives you the sense that they truly care about the kids who are there and lifting them up to be better citizens of their schools and the world. If we all faced our fears and stopped ridiculing others for their differences or failings, or even successes, we would have a much easier time being our authentic selves. Some of the things that my small group listed as fears are standing out too much, being different, not being in the right activities, smelling weird, dressing weird, not looking right.
They asked a few of us adults to share our own stories. A couple women talked about a time in middle school when they were singled out as different or someone to ridicule because of how they dressed or who they liked (boy-girl issues). I talked about being different, feeling different. That I was the one who liked to write stories, and that even today, I feel like I'm different because I'm the only one of my friends in this community who sits around coffee shops and writes plays. I hope my message was Dare to be Different. The presenter said, "It sounds like you're taking a risk to be your authentic self."
At the close of the day, we sat in a large group. The presenters handed out cards and asked us to write one change we could make in ourselves to improve our community. Then, they asked people to get up and share what they'd written. I was moved to tears as 6th graders got up and talked about being kinder, including those who are left out, stopping their bullying, and being nicer to siblings. Getting up and sharing is a very brave thing to do. I was inspired by those young people.
Go. Create. Inspire!
And, dare to make a difference.
Journaling Prompt: What is one thing you can do to improve the community where you live and help those who might be hurting?