Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Children Matters: Mindful Presence

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

For the purposes of this blog I’m always scanning my surroundings for stories. Sometimes it’s a struggle for me to find them. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can’t. Personal eccentricities can obscure the eye. Other times I see it as valuable to recognize the reality of our residents. To accept where they are in their story as opposed to me trying to shoehorn them into three succinct acts.

The following is a sampling of dialogue I’ve heard spoken from residents in the last two weeks. From these lines, if we stop and listen and are present, we can infer where they are within their personal narrative.

“The teacher is worried that the problems are more than just speech,” said the Mother of the three year old who is falling behind his peers developmentally.

“The world is full of idiots who need to get their (expletive) together,” said the teenager whose father is not living at home anymore and is trying to rebound from slipping grades at school.

“Sometimes when I’m mad at myself I bang my head against the wall and tell myself I’m stupid,” said the articulate and kind 2nd grader who is having behavior issues at school.

“He can’t see his Dad because I filed a restraining order against him,” said the single Mother of three children.  

“I’m worried I might get jumped tomorrow, but I can’t tell anyone at school about it,” said the high school sophomore.

“We weren’t in program last night because his Dad went to jail,” said the Mother of a child with special needs when asked if everything was okay.

Again, this is just a sampling. Over the next several weeks I will hear different words spoken from different residents, but the emotions and thoughts will stay similar. Words of stress. The emotion of pain. Thoughts of fear. As time progresses some of the residents quoted above will transition to new stages of acceptance or to stages of resolution. Some of the residents will find new crises at the door. Others will remain where they currently are.

But as we work towards helping families find permanent housing, one of the most poignant, effective, and powerful things we can do is walk beside them no matter what stage of change they’re in, no matter how far away from resolution they find themselves. The reality is that this doesn’t always provide us with a natural place to roll the credits, but it does provide us with an opportunity to be present.

In a frenetically paced world where the moment of now is often stomped on and trampled upon, I see tremendous value in this state of mindful presence. And while presence itself is hard to measure, I contend that it leads to successful measurable outcomes. May we continue to work with our residents in this mindfully present state as they wade through the difficulties before them. And may the safety and security of permanent housing allow former Community LINC residents find the present-ness of their lives containing less stress, less pain, and less fear.