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May 26, 2020

Stories with Friends: Part 18

“Hope Will Come” (As told by Andrew)

I have a youth on my roster that is experiencing big emotions from life changes. Even if he wanted to verbalize them, I’m not sure he could. We’ve really been focusing on trying to understand and make sense of what he’s feeling, especially during heightened emotions. I ask things like, “Does your chest feel tight or knotted up?” At the same time COVID hit, my youth was moved to a new foster home and had been rapidly regressing. We still connect on a regular basis, but primarily through a landline phone. The woman taking care of him is 74 years old, and FaceTime is completely foreign. You can imagine the hours spent being her technical support.

I wanted a way for my youth to be able to work through his emotions even when I wasn’t around. Our last couple of outings together, I took him to a guitar shop, and his eyes lit up. Playing guitar and writing songs was my way of working through life growing up, and I had a hunch it might do the same for him. We planned on taking lessons together, but with COVID and his new foster home, I wanted to accelerate the process. I reached out to the community and found someone willing to donate an acoustic guitar for him. I also went back to the local guitar shop we visited together, and they loved what I was doing, so they hooked us up with lesson books, strings, picks and the camo strap he was eyeballing.

With no lessons, he picked up the guitar and started eagerly writing songs. He called back two days later and sang me some songs he wrote. It was incredible! Not only did he have the skills to write the words and melody, but the bravery to sing them for Nona and me over the phone. One was called, “Hope will come.” Without him even knowing it, his emotions were spilling out through lyrics. He was giving me insight into his life that I might have never heard through conversation. It has opened up a whole new world that I can’t wait to explore more.

A “No Matter What” Organization

As part of her quarantine “self-care,” Friend/mentor Dani has been painting–using YouTube videos as inspiration and learning. Her first paintings came out really cool, so she decided to paint something for each of her youth and drop them off at their houses.

One youth, Stella, was so excited because Dani remembered her favorite colors (purple and pink) and included them in her painting! This was most certainly on purpose. Dani saw these paintings as an opportunity to remind her youth that they belong (a Core Asset) and have someone in their lives who will remember the important things like their favorite colors and favorite animals.

What could be more important than a sense of belonging during a quarantine–when all of our youth are too far away from their peers. Dani has discovered a beautiful way to bring belonging to her youth at their homes.

Our Core Assets don’t stop because of a pandemic–we just find news ways to stick by our youth, because we are a “no matter what” organization!

A Treasure Hunt for Bruce

Bruce loves telling Corey about his newest rock discovery whenever they get to FaceTime. As Corey says, they are all essentially the same rock–landscaping rocks he finds around his home. That being said, Corey loves his creativity and ability to find value in what we would deem “valueless.”

Recently Corey decided it would be fun to create a treasure hunt for Bruce in his neighborhood. He took an Amicus crystal (and a note that said, “I’m proud of you and I miss you"), buried it, and drew a map for Bruce.

Bruce ran all over his neighborhood following the map and lit up when he discovered his treasure! Bruce has truly found his spark (a Core Asset!) in rock collecting and exploring, and Corey has played a vital role in encouraging his passions.

We can’t wait to see what amazing adventures Bruce and Corey go on once they are able to spend time together in person!

Space to Be Vulnerable

As our Friends/mentors will tell you, one of the most important times for conversation with youth is during a car ride. There’s something about being together, but not in direct eye contact, that allows our youth to share with more vulnerability. They seem to feel safer to share hard things with their Friend/mentor in those situations.

Friend/mentor Joe talked this week about how powerful his video chats have been with his youth for a similar reason–they can put the phone down or flip the camera around and talk to Joe in a way that feels really comfortable.

Jules, for example, loves having a show and tell time with Joe. Showing him around his house and flipping the camera around to show Joe things that are important to him and make him happy.

As Joe told us, these video chats are really important because his youth don’t have playmates during quarantine. In this absence, he has become their audience.

Time and time again, we find our Core-Asset, Belonging, coming into play during this difficult time. And time and time again, we are amazed by how our Friends/mentors and youth are finding ways to stay connected.

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