This guest post is from Monika Keenan, Branch Director at the Pigeon Forge Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Smoky Mountains.
In the midst of our hectic days, sometimes it’s hard to see the individual kid through the crowd. Then something happens and that one kid makes all the noise, chaos, and confusion melt away, and for that one moment we get a reminder of why we are here. That happened for me on the Friday of week 9 of our summer program this year.
There is an eight year old girl named Julie* who has been a member of our Club since she was five. She has a brother who gets most of the attention due to disruptive behavior. Julie is quiet and doesn’t smile very often. She looks sad most of the time and usually dwells on the negative. She stays in the background most days and plays by herself, and even when she is being disagreeable she is methodical and quiet. This was not the case this particular Friday. Julie was extremely talkative and following me around carrying a small notebook. She began to tell me about all the scary video games she likes to play.
I said, “Julie, I don’t like scary things they give me bad dreams.”
Julie said, “Oh they don’t scare me.”
She turned the page and started writing.
Me: “Julie, what are you writing now?”
Julie: “All the things I hate.”
Me: “Why don’t you write all the things you love?”
Julie: “No I would rather write the things I hate.”
She continued to walk around with me as I made my rounds through the Club. Then, I felt her tap on my arm. When I looked down, she handed me her notebook and said, “Write what you love.”
I looked at her for a moment. I took the book looked at her again and acted like I was thinking hard, then I wrote something down. I handed her book back. She looked at it and the biggest, brightest smile I have ever seen came across her face.
All I wrote in her little notebook was “JULIE!”
That night as I was packing up to go home I walked into my office to find a small piece of paper from Julie’s notebook on my desk. It was folded in half and said “Call me” on the front. I opened it and inside she wrote “From Julie” and her phone number! This brought tears to my eyes! That evening as I drove home exhausted from a long summer day, I thought about Julie, and I had the realization that she gave me more than I could have given her. She reminded me why I do what I do!
This small act of love has changed Julie in a way I didn’t expect. Since that day, she keeps a smile on her beautiful face and wants to tell me all about her day.
You see, those days when chaos seems to be so loud we cannot hear ourselves think are the days the kids we take care of as Youth Development Professionals need us most! Those are the days we need to stop and find the sad girl who focuses on the negative and the bad because she thinks she’s NOT lovable, and simply sit and listen to her! Let her walk and talk about whatever she wants! Look at her and tell her she is loved!! We may be the only positive voice she hears. All it takes is one person to change a life!
Monika has been in the Movement for 19 years, and has been the Director of the Pigeon Forge Branch for 4 years.