Contributed by: Inner City Youth Alive
Some people just seem to bounce back after tragedy.
Researchers who study human resilience often refer to it as the “bounce back factor.” I have noticed how many parents find wild and creative ways to protect their children from harm and stress. I was amazed to hear about a parent meeting at the university that my son attended. I would not go to a meeting like that in a million years but I know someone who attended. The main theme of the meeting was to assure the parents that their precious little ones (albeit adult) children would be kept out of harm’s way. They offered a way for parents to express concerns about their children’s wellbeing and even noted safe spaces to which their adult children could retreat to find safety. Sick.
The idea that children should be sheltered from any and all hardships does nothing to help children grow.
The only way to develop resilience is by facing difficulty. I am not talking about throwing our kids to the wolves. I am talking about allowing our children to wrestle with the general malevolence that exists in the world. Life tends to generate enough difficulty to give most people a good chance to develop resilience.
I see kids in our community with unbelievable resilience. I wouldn’t wish the kind of difficulty that many of our kids live with on anyone. Some of the pain comes from systemic injustice and some from the day- to-day life in the community. The fact that there can be too much pain is not lost on me and for some youth it undoubtedly is too much. Nevertheless, you see the strength of the youth that carry so much.
This summer my wife met with a young woman who just radiates strength. She was carrying more than her fair share of life’s burdens, but had found a way to walk with kindness, gentleness and a surprising lack of bitterness in spite of it all. Being around this young woman you feel safe and privileged to be with her. She opened up to Sandy over a meal and shared the fact that a close friend had recently died of an overdose. She talked about the family reeling from pain and how difficult it was for her. Sandy and I debriefed the discussion they had had and were both amazed at her ability to laugh and walk with a lightness in her step, despite her firsthand experience with hardship.
I learn so much about life in our community. Today I sat with another mom who walked me through the hardships of her life. She shared about being held hostage in a violent relationship for three years and about pushing through life alone as a parent, doing her best. What stood out for me in that conversation was not the story of pain, but that this woman had power over the pain. She showed me that her pain would not ruin her life. She told me that Jesus had changed everything in her life and that without Jesus she would not have made it. She had done more than recover from her pain. She had sort of taken revenge on the pain, by incessantly pushing toward her goals and relentlessly dreaming of a better day.
Isn’t this what happened when Jesus lived through the pain of his crucifixion. It was intended for harm, but God used it for good. Of course this is what God specializes in. The most gut wrenching pain and suffering has the potential to be used for good. It means acknowledging that pain sucks, but also living with the confidence that pain does not have the final word. “You will rise again and God will restore you and make all the ugly into something beautiful.”
Written by: Kent Dueck, Executive Director at ICYA