This blog has served a dual purpose for me. Not only does it allow me to tell a wider audience what's on my mind, but it serves as a pseudo-journal for me to record memories and feelings. For the past month or so, I've been extra aware of my dwindling time left in this country, so I made a bit more effort to gather some memories from work.
A small boy I'll call David came into group looking really down. I stepped over to him and quietly asked him what was wrong, and he said that his dog Diesel was sick and was going to die. I asked him to tell me about Diesel, and David told me all about how big he was. I decided to try to turn his mood around, so I told David that when something is dying, it's okay to be sad about it. But! We should remember all the happy and funny moments that we've had. I asked him to tell me his favorite memory with Diesel. It was the first time David saw him. Diesel had run up and jumped on him, and because he was so big, he had knocked David flat on his back. After we talked and laughed about some funny memories, David was back to smiling again.
While I was with the babies in the morning, I had a 1 year-old boy sitting on my knee. For just a second, I felt him tense, and then I heard a big ol' man-sized toot rumble out. Becky, a co-worker, looked at me with wide, questioning eyes and just started laughing. Turns out she thought it was me just letting loose.
I had the opportunity to work with the teens several times during the last two weeks of our summer programme. Way back before I was placed at Quaker Cottage, my hopes had been to work with youth in some format. Unfortunately, that didn't happen (but I'm not really complaining!), so whenever I had a chance to work with our teenage group, I took it. Several months ago, I was with a group and found it to be one of my most challenging days. Maybe it was me or maybe it the dynamics of the group that day, but the teens simply wouldn't listen to me or respect me in any way shape or form. It felt how I imagine a substitute teacher might feel in a rowdy classroom. This experience made an impression on me, and I was nervous to get back into the teen group again. But there was no reason to be nervous! The groups this time around were great! We went go-karting, and my competitive nature definitely kicked in. It didn't help that Rory, our teen director, was super competitive too. I went out on that track looking for the fastest lap, and if anyone got in my way, they were toast... Well, I maybe kinda sorta got a bit too into it because after losing to Rory on day one, I really went for it on day two and smashed into one of the teens. Afterward, she was complaining about a sore shoulder, and as it turns out, I may have sprained her shoulder with the impact. Needless to say, I felt horrible about losing to Rory again... (oh and about the shoulder too.)
All right, so this is a weird one. During the summer, I often wore shorts as most people do, and on occasion, the kids would notice something about my legs. They were HAIRY! AHH!! It was so funny to have 5 year-old girls amazed and simultaneously grossed out by the hair on my legs. They just couldn't quite figure out why it was there.
Now for the sad bit. This past week was a week of goodbyes. Not only was it the last time I would see most of the children, but it was the end of the year for one of the groups. Each evening, we had a leaving party for the children whose year was ending, and I said goodbye to them as well. David was particularly sad that I had to go. He had just started at Quakers four months ago, and we had bonded quite a bit over the summer. As he got on the bus and I said goodbye for the last time, he looked at me and asked "Why do you have to go?" And it hit me. The tears welled up in my eyes. I answered him as simply and honestly as I could, but there's not much you can say to help a 6 year-old (who maybe has had a number of people in his short life leave him suddenly) understand why it's time to go.
The other sad moment from all the goodbyes was on Thursday night. For whatever reason, our Thursday afterschool groups have always been the most challenging. The kids are just wound up tighter than a rusted bolt, and they are all too ready to unleash a wave of destruction. They have so many emotional problems that they just can't seem to process whether they are happy or sad or having fun. Basically, they're either manic or despondent. But for once, they weren't this way. It was obvious from the moment they stepped onto the bus. They were calm, willing to talk with us - wanting to talk with us. They were sad to be finishing, maybe even afraid to be finishing, their time with Quakers. My eyes filled up once again when they started talking to each other and saying over and over again how much they would miss them and me and everyone.
But the most heart-wrenching moment came from a 10 year-old boy. I gave him final hug, and he said, "You're my hero." (Now, he also said Phil [another co-worker] was his hero too, but let's just leave it as is.)