It was Tuesday at 5:30, for me this means locking up the office and heading home.
For CHAT students and members of our after-school team, it means heading inside after 30 minutes of recreation to get snack and begin tutoring. So this day, like most Tuesdays, I left the office amidst a flurry of students and volunteers gearing up for tutoring. I walked out onto the porch and down the stairs and stumbled upon this simple scene: a 17-year-old Street Leader at the site, let's call him Joe, asked a question to a young tutoring participant:
“In the future, how might you respond differently to that situation?”
It’s a sentence I myself have asked CHAT participants more times that I can count. When there’s conflict, or a moment of disrespect it’s one of the three cardinal questions you ask… “what happened?” “what might you have differently to avoid this outcome?” “what will you do in the future?” But this time it wasn’t coming out of the mouth of a CHAT staff, it was coming out of the mouth of a young man who had grown up in CHAT programs, who was merely 10 years old the first time I met him.
I walked to my car and pondered what I had heard. On the one hand, it is not my hope that CHAT participants grow up to parrot all the things they hear from staff and volunteers. I want them to ask questions, to think critically about who they are and what they want to accomplish.
I want them to develop their own leadership style, their own voice.
On the other hand, what a hopeful question to ask in times of trouble. At CHAT we strive to see the youth of Church Hill make transformative decisions. We ask, “What might you do in the future?” over and over again not in the belief that any one person will stop making mistakes or having conflict.
We ask in the hopes that over time, with reflection, thoughts of the future will lead to actions that result in strong relationships, deep accomplishments, the realization of gifts, and a transformed community.
I found myself feeling so thankful for Joe, for his willingness to serve members of his community and for the leader he is becoming.
I look forward to seeing him, and so many other CHAT youth, continue to develop his voice and to love his community and the people in it. I look forward to all of us together envisioning a hopeful future for the CHAT community.