When I arrived at LaSalle School for my first year of service I only had basic knowledge of what I would be doing. I knew I’d be working in recreation but I knew very little about the young men I would be working with. I knew it would be a challenge but I had no idea of the challenges those young men had faced, as well as how understanding the struggles of the young men would help me understand my own struggles. I especially didn’t think of myself as medicine.
As a first year Lasallian Volunteer the very first thing I had to do was attend Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) training. The first day I was hooked, right off the bat I received invaluable information about how and why our boys act the way they do. I learned that every time we do something we are seeking a specific response. At LaSalle sometimes the response our young men are looking for isn’t positive. I learned that part of the reason that is the case with the young men I work with is because the majority of them have been traumatized in some way or another. It was not until halfway through my second year as an LV that I realized that I am medicine.
During our TCI refresher class the facilitator posed the question, “what kind of medicine are you?” I thought hard of what my answer was. To understand the question we revisited the fact that our young men have been hurt and scarred and due to their traumas they psychologically changed. We were told how an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Score could lead to certain health issues down the road, the higher the score the more serious the health problems. This was extremely important to know because on average our young men had a score of 5 (10 being the highest). We even learned how crisis and trauma could literally change the make-up of our DNA.
So after a discussion and video my fellow staff began sharing their answers such as, happiness, love, joy, and other various responses while I thought about mine. I would think of my time at LaSalle and about my young men and the experiences I had. My mind would recall the times we went caving (spelunking) and the amount of fun they said they had. I could think of the numerous downhill skiing and snowboarding trips and how one of the young men wiped out and the laughter we all shared. There were a number of times as well when we have all at times refused our medicine just like the young men at LaSalle. Times when I attempted to deescalate a crisis but failed because as their medicine I was refused.
Sometimes I myself would need medicine in the form of my community members or fellow Lasallian Volunteers. It was not uncommon that I would need a prescription of support from another community and they were never short on their supply. I could always count on stress relief medication from the people in the program. And if there was ever a time I may have been slacking on certain paperwork I needed to turn in to the office in Washington, like caffeine the LV staff would help me focus in.
If you were to ask me now, “what kind of medicine are you?” I would respond by saying it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m forgiveness when I hear of the history of my boys, or when they get on my last nerve by disrespecting me. Sometimes I’m an anti-depressant when a young man is upset because he was not allowed his visit home. Most of the time I’m an excitant because I get to be the fun part of the boys’ day. Above all I am healing, I might be slow acting because my effects might not work right away but as an LV one day I hope to heal the wounds left over from the troubled past of the young men I work with. I am medicine.
David Anderson is a 2nd year LV serving at LaSalle School in Albany, New York and is a 2013 graduate of Lewis University.