“We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.”
– Attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero
When I began my year of service with MercyWorks, I did not really know what to expect out of my job. I was excited to be placed in Seton Home, where I work with young ladies ages 11-14. I had always considered relationship building to be one of my strengths, and I was eager to explore a career with relationships as a core component. Still, with my International Studies and Economics background, I knew that I didn’t have much hands-on experience working with youth with histories of trauma, and I knew I would have much to learn in order to do my job effectively. On the first day that I met with my supervisor and manager, they emphasized one of the greatest challenges we face while working particularly with this age group: we often may not see the results of our efforts, and we have to trust that the seeds we plant will one day take root and grow.
“we have to trust that the seeds we plant will one day take root and grow.”
Working at a residential treatment facility has given me the opportunity to get to know my youth on a deep level and to learn the many different qualities, strengths, and areas of growth for each of the girls. We are with our youth at moments where they are the most playful and joyful – like when I practice basketball with one youth who just joined her school team or when we play Just Dance and the girls laugh at my limited dance moves. We are also with our youth, however, at the moments when they feel scared, angry, confused, and upset. We are there when they come home from school and are hurt because their first boyfriend didn’t talk to them all day or a teacher called them out in front of the class. We have conversations about the awkward and confusing changes happening to their bodies. We are with them when they get ready to go to sleep and when they wake up in the morning – in a bed that is not really their own and in a place that sometimes they really do not want to be. In all of these moments there is an opportunity for teaching, for relationship building, and for planting seeds.
In many of these moments, I often feel frustrated, as it seems like the youth are at a standstill and we cannot move forward together. There are many times when my patience has been expanded further than I thought it could be and when I lean heavily on my co-workers for support and guidance. My daily work, however, is colored with simple moments of gratitude that remind me of the future promise in each of my girls. I am grateful for the moment dancing in the hallway with a youth who wanted to listen to her favorite song to regulate her emotions. We celebrated when a youth brought home a good grade on a Math test when she was struggling in the class. We find connection in moments when a youth comes up with a handshake or a phrase they know will put a smile on both of our faces. I see seeds planted and starting to blossom when a youth processes through a challenging moment and collaborates to form new goals in Advocate Meetings. Though it is sometimes easy to forget, it is a true gift to meet these girls at this part of their journey and to contribute to cultivating the seeds that have already started to flourish.