Friend Corey's story.
I had an opportunity to shadow a Klamath Falls mentor and child so that I would be able to see what the day to day might look like when I start working with my children. We took off from the clubhouse and went to pick up our first child, and on the way, I was given the backstory. Because of the neglect and trauma that the child had experienced in their younger years, they were behind in terms of certain benchmarks for their age group. Our plan for the day was to go bowling with some of the other Friends and their children. When we picked Sean up at a library, I could already sense some caution coming from him about me. He didn’t really open up to me immediately, and even used his mentor as a way to physically block him off from me. I decided that my goal for the day was to form a connection with Sean.
On the way over to the bowling alley, I started a conversation with Sean about his favorite book, which turned out to be a Disney story and that Sean's favorite Disney movie was Alice in Wonderland. That was my in; I loved Disney books and movies as a child and felt they heavily influenced my life. We ended up talking about our favorite books until we arrived at the bowling alley. To be honest, it felt really good to get an initial connection. This connection cut out a lot of the questions I had about connecting with my own future youth. I felt as though I honed the edge of a tool in my tool belt, but the best was yet to come.
Upon arriving at the bowling alley, we got our shoes and bowling balls. We met up with the other mentors and their children. The mentors had one lane, and the children had another. We started bowling, and when Sean got up for his turn, he seemed pretty excited to bowl. The children had bumpers up and on their lane. Since we started late, we were a few frames behind everyone else, so his score was comparatively lower than the other children. He didn’t shut down or throw a temper tantrum, but I could tell that it got to him, and he was internalizing it because he didn’t want it to outwardly show. While he waited for his turn, he kind of hung towards the back or side of the group and was not as excited as the first time when his turn came back around.
I wanted to engage with the children more, so I walked up to the group and asked if they could help me by imbuing my ball with good luck. I wasn’t fairing too much better than they were. We patted down my ball, and I ended up getting a Spare and thanking one child for her help. After that, all the children began sitting closer and engaging with me, and on my turn, I would ask them to bring good luck to my ball. I think it gave them a little more confidence in their own luck after seeing me bowl a little better. It seemed like they were enjoying bowling more and more as the afternoon progressed. When it came to another one of my turns, I ended up getting a Strike and went around getting high fives. I went to Sean and asked him, “Are you gonna get a strike on your turn?” Sean's response was, “Yeah… I better!” and, no joke, during his next turn, he got a Strike! He gleefully turned around to all of us, cheering, you could tell the score didn’t matter to him anymore. In fact, it turns out that he cared so little about the score that he didn’t realize he had won until we pointed it out.
At the end of the game, the Friend I was shadowing started talking about the Core Assets as we were walking out. It was a moment when everything “clicked” for me. The Klamath Friend saw everything I did and managed to bring it all back to one of the Core Assets, Perseverance and Grit. It really opened my eyes to the process of what we would eventually be doing. When something as simple as bowling can be brought back to the Core Assets, I really saw the endless possibilities for educational opportunities. We went back to the clubhouse and did some arts and crafts until we had to leave to go back to Bend, and when we were saying goodbye, Sean gave me a hug goodbye. Now in our entire selection process, I’ve gotten a LOT of hugs (kids like to hug apparently, who knew?), but this one was different. If I had to put it into words, this hug kind of felt a little warmer, like it meant a little more.