“A friendly look, a kindly smile, one good act, and life’s worthwhile.” -Author Unknown
This service year, as a Lasallian Volunteer, I have had to provide structure and exhibit integrity. As with every LV at each of our sites, I’ve also had to be a life-changing presence. All of these abilities I believe make up just what a father is. This service year I learned quickly that the children we work with need consistency. I was challenged to interact with them in a way that was not condescending, and still deliver the message that I am their elder. I benefitted from pre-training at my site. The training was Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, TCI for short; it was a week of concepts and cycles of how and why our kids act the way they do. In the training the lecturer indicated the importance of relationships with the children outside of the child’s crisis mode. The speaker also alluded to the fact that most of our children come from dysfunctional home situations and that is why they are in our care. At the end of training I felt confident I had the tools I needed to serve my students.
How wrong I was when, I showed up and immediately thought the children would respect me. I found myself asking some days; haven’t these children had any home training? I then went back to my training and answered my own question with a no, and I braced myself for the challenge. The challenge was to teach them what their home situation didn’t and hope that they could retain and apply it. So, I learned quickly to fashion myself; my goal was to be austere at the beginning and as time progressed add in humor. It was working and I thought wow, I’ve never acted this ascetic. All things were going well until I had to be a referee for one of the basketball games. In that game all the kids whom I thought would respect my calls and not argue fell apart.
After the game I was left questioning if what I was doing really established a solid foundation. I realized that questioning my impact was wrong. I could not equate the impact of months of building healthy relationships, to one moment of defeat. The children came back and apologized and I then had an a-ha! moment. To those kids, my presence throughout the campus, on a day to day basis, showed them I cared. I came in on time and no matter how I was feeling, gave them the same personality each day. When there were games, I explained to them the rules and stood by them, never changing. All of these examples showed them I had not fled them completely; it was just at times of frustration, they had no way of expressing it in a way that was not disrespectful to me. I learned a lot from refereeing and it has taught me a thing or two about what it means to be a good father. To our kids a disciplinarian is seen as being evil because in most of their situations they were allowed to roam freely. Being firm and not changing how you respond based on their behavior is new to them. The majority of the time they are used to getting praise for favorable behavior and shouted at for unfavorable behavior. All they’ve heard is do as I say not what I do; I show them to do as I do. All of these lessons have helped me to see that a good father is hard to come by because to practice these things on a daily basis takes discipline that not many people are ready to accept. It has also allowed me to appreciate all the people in my life who were willing to undertake the challenge.
“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” -Abdul Kalam
Trey Bradley, 12-14, La Salle School, Albany, NY