For me, seventh grade was probably the best in my school years – but then the tenth grade was too. Ninth, eleventh, and even my senior year were not special. Not even my graduation sticks out. When I look back to that day, the only thing I cherish is the time spent with Allen. We walked with each other to our seats that day. He was one of my best friends. He is gone now. His life ended too soon.
Eighth grade for me was horrible – until it wasn’t. I was sneaking out of the house, hanging out with people I shouldn’t, drinking, doing drugs, and running away. Then I moved. I will say it over and over; the move to Parker saved me. It was my turning point.
So flash forward thirty-four years after eighth grade, and put me in a classroom every Wednesday morning from 7:00AM to 7:50 AM with nine truly amazing eighth-graders from Cimarron Middle School in Parker, Colorado. I just finished mentoring in a program called Ambassadors for Compassion, AOC.
I went to give, but like always when you give, you really end up receiving. Basically, it was The Breakfast Club crew, without the criminal. The so-called-criminals either don’t exist anymore or the teachers didn’t want to disrupt the setting. I hope it is the former as I was that so-called-criminal at the beginning of eighth grade. I would have loved a program like this. I also relate to kids who struggle. I understand why they’re pissed off. It’s the good ones that I don’t usually get, or I can’t relate to. And it’s the good ones that help the ones who struggle. We need both.
Kids are stressed right now; they are over-worked, over-involved, bored out of their minds, over-stimulated by the web, worried about failing – but in my opinion, not knowing how to fail and move on, and way too worried about how many “likes” they get.
For three months we sat back and talked. We shared our hopes, our dreams, and our fears. We listened. Not once did I ever (I repeat, not once did I ever) need to tell one of these amazing, incredible kids to put their cell phone away. They wanted to talk. They wanted to listen.
Kids are smart. They know what they want. They even know they have to work to get what they want. They understand that the world changes and they may have to bend, wiggle, step forward and step back in their journey in life.
Failure is part of life. We all need to fail. I think it’s how we react to the failures of those around us that determine how they deal with it. I have failed at so many things, yet I don’t feel like a failure. I keep trying even when I’m scared. And I continue to put myself out there. Sometimes not enough, but I’m getting better. Like I said, I learned a ton from these kids.
So what is my point? With all of the hurt and chaos that goes on in this world, I was just given the grace of comfort and peace. I watched eighth graders realize that no matter what group you are in, we all have the same struggles and fears. I think we all forget this. I want us to remember. I want us to remember our turning point. What was it that changed you? What was it that made you move forward? I hope we all can be a little of that to someone else.