A while back, I read a Forbes.com article by a clever woman named Jessica Hagy (image credit to her, found at the link). The article is from 2012 or so, but I sometimes pull out the notes I made on it, and undertake some solid self-reflection. The author’s contention is that there are 6 kinds of people that a person needs in their life in order to truly master their own potential. She identifies these 6 individuals as being:
1) The Instigator, 2) The Cheerleader, 3) The Doubter, 4) The Taskmaster, 5) The Connector and finally, 6) The Example.
I was really struck by this article when I first happened upon it (likely when I was trolling the internet looking for clever mash-ups of my favourite childhood cartoons and my favourite Hip Hop songs) because it was easy for me to identify who in my life plays each of those roles. It was even easier for me to imagine where I might be without those people. Sometimes one person plays multiple roles, and other times more than one person plays another part. The important thing though, is that these people exist in my life, and I trust them enough to know that they are in this relationship for the long haul; for better or worse, these folks are the ones that stick it out with me. They champ through all of the challenges with me and celebrate my triumphs without fail. These are the people I surround myself. These are my people. These are the individuals who encourage me and test me and challenge me and advocate for me. These are the people that make me want to continue moving forward. These are the people that remind me I matter. I am important. I belong.
A young woman, about 17 years old was thumbing through my notebook one day last summer, as she was sitting at my desk waiting for me to finish up work and give her a ride home. She saw my notes about the article and started to read. At the end, she said to me “I have no one. I have none of these people.” What broke my heart in that moment was that she was, to some extent, correct. Until that moment, I had thought that, because of the relationship that she and I had built, I would have filled some of those roles for her. What I realized in that moment, was that she saw me in a different light. She saw me as someone that was useful, but not yet totally deserving of her trust.
There are so many youth that are surrounded by caring adults, but feel so disconnected from them. They may, in actual fact, have all 6 of these people standing there, waiting to support them, but they simply do not recognize it. The missing piece for them is trust. Youth, especially those in the system need to test the trust of the adults in their lives. They need to know that we are what we say we are; that we are there for them through it all; that they are more than a paycheque to us…they are more than the work that we do. Trust is tenuous with these youth. They have had their hearts broken by most every adult in their lives, so when they latch on, it is up to us to prove that we are worthy of their trust. Simple things, like remembering their birthday, or little details of their lives; challenging them in respectful ways; forgiving them when they are wrong, being honest about your feelings and perhaps most importantly, trusting them. These are things that teach them we care. It is imperative never to underestimate the value of the small, seemingly insignificant things we do with and for others. These are the things that change people’s lives.
I wish I could say that this young woman, now 18, learned to trust me. She hasn’t, because I have work still to do in order to cross the threshold she has set for me. The reality for her and I though, is that this will be a lifelong dance, and only when I’ve stuck through everything with her, will she truly trust me. I’m up for the challenge. Are you?