Juice for the journey is an article for people who work with children. It encourages us to examine where our spark, our energy and our verve comes from in order to do the work that we do.
Juice for the Journey
Where does your “Juice for the Journey” come from? I mean, really? When one devotes their life work to protecting, teaching, guiding and nurturing children, odds are you’re not getting rich doing it. So money is not (I hope) the primary motivator.
Just how it came to be that I would dedicate my professional life to working with children is a question people frequently asked me over the years. Everyone’s journey is their own, and mine in many ways was handed to me. In short, I had a spiritual experience way back in 1977 in which I just knew that working with children would become, in time, my life work, within my faith community as a Quaker and eventually as the Youth Advocate for the Town of Dartmouth. What I have learned though, and what I believe is essential, is that there needs to be a well that rises up from within that holds a person in this work. For some people a strong sense of faith and purpose may be one of those wells, but there are other sources, too.
I know adults who cherish teaching or who are very effective therapists and youth workers who would likely also say that faith as they understood it wasn’t a primary motivator behind the fulfillment of their careers, but that “something” else was. And it’s that “something else,” which is at times a difficult element to nail down and name, that this article is also about.
A friend of mine who teaches middle schoolers all day and then directs a high school theater arts group after school, including nights and weekends, is, as their director, demanding and precise, yet he exhibits gentleness and patience throughout every production with his young performers. He also enjoys high praise from his students and from their parents. Once, when I asked him where the drive, energy and spirit came from to do his work year after year, he simply said, “I get it from the kids, knowing how hard they work to learn their lines and characters. And when you add the stage, the lights, the music and all that, it’s just magic.” Now that’s what I call real juice for the journey!
Please take a moment to read my story called, “The General’s Car,” about a man who’s own Juice for the Journey inspired many young lives, including my own.
For a number of years I shared committee work with a colleague working on child abuse prevention. I was working with the children, and Norma worked primarily with adult male sex offenders who had been serving time for their crime. She loved her work and talked about, not triumphs, but all the little places where progress was made getting through to her clients, which eventually helped some of these men to accept responsibility and express remorse to their victims, which in turn helped those who had been harmed to heal with time.
I could never do this kind of work, ever. Yet I marveled at the grace, dedication and expertise that this therapist brought to her work for many years. And it wasn’t lost on me either that she may well have been working with offenders who had victimized one or more of my own youthful clients as well. When asked how she managed to work with such a challenging population of offenders, Norma simply said, “Everyone deserves a chance to do better, no matter how heinous their crime to society was.” Though Norma’s example never brought me closer to working with these kinds of offenders, her words came to me years later when I found myself, on occasion, working with “hard to like” clients. Heck, if Norma could do her work, then surely I can hang in there dealing with this client!
Where Does Your Well and Your Source Come From?
So what about you, my friend? Have you given some time to consider where your own well and sources of inspiration rise up from that give you the strength and juice to work with young people? Oftentimes, it comes from a place totally different and far removed from the place of your work and its people…which is good, I believe.
Wherever your own well is, and where your own personal, emotional and perhaps spiritual sources of strength for the work come from, guard them fiercely and keep them present in and to your own life first and foremost. You deserve nothing less and your youthful charges will be the better for it, too.
Again, I invite you to check out “The General’s Car”
Text and image by Kevin Lee