Observing, conversing and spending time with two (sometimes three, if we count MacKenzie) kids as they negotiate this new place and time in their lives is a privilege I don't take lightly. They are each growing and learning by leaps and bounds every day. Sometimes those accomplishments can be measured and quantified, but most often they can not.
Success means something completely different to each of them, but the feelings achievement engenders within is probably similar. That inner “yes” that we all recognize when we have done something we are proud of. That really good feeling that spreads from the heart outwards. The glow from the inside that can't be erased and other people recognize instantly, by the wide smile on your face. Yes, success is attractive. Folks like spending time in your company (maybe some of that good feeling will rub off).
Yesterday, Nate was pretty stoked when he came into the Center. He had been away last week, so we hadn't seen each other in almost two weeks. He was bursting to tell me the story of his snowmobile, a machine that has sat idle for seven years. He had a professional mechanic look at it to figure out what it would take to get it running. The pro had nothing to offer. After he left, Nate was determined to get the snowmobile running. He tinkered and played and got it started long enough to move it into his garage. Success! He accomplished something a guy who went to school for mechanics couldn't. Man, did that make him feel good!
What do we offer here that is different from other educational environments? Respect, plain and simple. When Nate first came here, I listened to him, everything he had to say. Really listened, because I am genuinely interested in the stories every youth brings here.
On that first day, I explained the only two rules we have at Deep Root Center: Don't do anything to hurt yourself and don't hurt anyone else. The expectations are simple; respect yourself, this space and everyone else around you. He looked at me as if I was crazy. No other rules, that's it? Through that conversation I was able to communicate that I am going to meet him where he is at. I am going to reinforce what he is good at and celebrate every success. I am not going to tell him what he is bad at; through trial and error, he will discover what he needs to improve on his own.
It is easy to be successful when you know there are people who care about you at your back. When success can be defined with feelings instead of things acquired. When you have a smile on your face that will invite people into your life.