Photograph by Mary Harrison
Excerpt from a Children's Promise youth training: Entering the classroom, I soon caught a heartbreaking glimpse of a student whose head lay on the surface of his desk. We’re going to name him Jason, not his real name. Jason’s arms were threaded over his head, as if to protect himself from some unspeakable horror. We make our way through the small group questions before arriving at the core question. “Have you ever seen anyone being given a hard time?” The room came to a silence-filled stop as a student speaker pointed to Jason, who had demonstrated feelings of utter rejection when we began. I ask “How can you express your thoughts in a way that helps this student?" The remainder of the class discussion explored this topic: How to express ourselves, what words to use when we have something to say, but in a way that helps someone thrive. This teaching session ended with Jason, his head held high, his face and body language looking like the sun itself, so bright and shining you could see the whole room “light up” with the power of his relief and joy. He shone gratitude at being accepted, included, and treated as a peer to be respected and spoken to, not just spoken about. The other students shared in his joy. They were relieved that words could really improve what had been a very painful situation for all.