Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Plant One Seed

I'm a volunteer for Write Around Portland, where one thing I do is facilitate writing groups. This week started my second group facilitation and the first time facilitating a youth group. There were some obvious differences between the first group of all adult women ranging from around 25 to 65, and this one with mixed genders, though more homogeneous in age. They're so obvious I won't even go into them. *smile.

It was one of those situations where the training and the theory are known and yet the experience in the moment is more powerful than just the words can convey. The advice about bringing double the number of prompts I'd normally use in that time period and having to be a little more directive than with adults were played out in 3-D living color. Despite a couple of disruptive participants who decided to not come back after the break, everyone wrote when given the prompts. Most of them shared and were able to give each other some feedback.

I felt good about how it went and a little exhausted from the extra energy required for facilitating the meeting with the teens, which I wasn't quite mentally prepared for - even though I knew. I cleaned up, packed up my things and left.

Driving to my next appointment, I thought about one participant who had said he wouldn't share his writing. He wanted to write, but wasn't good with public speaking. I encouraged him to think about sharing later, but assured him he would never be forced to share his writing. On the second prompt and every one after, he had read what he'd written. That one step of bravery and willingness to try something new pushed aside all of the stress of the first half of the group.

The next day I checked in with my support staff about how it went. She listened, offered some ideas, and gave me good feedback about decisions I'd made and how things went. That's one of the wonderful perks of volunteering with Write Around Portland: the staff. They are some of the most genuinely caring, compassionate, and supportive people I have ever been around; their honest passion for what they are doing is evident in everything they do. And they are completely there for the volunteers and workshop participants. An amazing group. I felt comfortable with how things had gone on the first day and ready to make my plans and get back in there with the teens for the next one. My direct support staff was great. The kids were great. I was great. And this would be another awesome experience.

Today I received a call from the contact person at the site. There were a couple things we needed to discuss. And she wanted to let me know that she has heard great feedback about the first meeting from all of the teens who stayed for the whole time.

And the best information was that one of the participants is hiding his journal (each participant receives a journal from Write Around Portland) in the desk. He takes it out several times during the day and is writing. That little gem, along with the one who read his writing in spite of his protestations that he never would, makes it all worth it. It would be worth it, anyway. But I can already see the seeds germinating.

I realize they may or may not take root this time around. But the seeds are planted. And, at least for now, there are two teens who are expressing themselves who might not have been otherwise. I was there as witness to their process and will be there to see how they grow.

This is the reason I volunteer. To even see the change for one person, or two - to be able to provide resources and a place that is safe for someone to reach out a little.

So it's a little more challenging! Life isn't always easy and a little challenge keeps me from getting bored or frustrated by monotony. I'm being challenged to step out of my comfort zone and my usual circle of interaction, too.

Think about one seed you have planted recently and write about it.