“Ms Becky, I think I might have had a panic attack.”
I asked Jorge (name changed to protect privacy) what his physical symptoms were, and indeed they fit the bill. “What’s going on that’s stressing you?” I asked…at first he said he had no idea, so I asked him to tell me about his past 24 hours. It turns out he had been meeting with Mr. L. to figure out how to pay for college – a bill of $38,000 a year. He had been so excited about his acceptance, but now it was hitting him that this was a big responsibility. He felt a little better after filling out the scholarship paperwork, which was going to bring his personal expense down to $11,000. But still…that was a lot of money. His big brother thought he shouldn’t commit to any debt. He thought it was a better idea to go to Camden County for a couple of years and then see what happened…just like he did. The problem is his big brother dropped out. Which is not uncommon at community colleges. And Jorge has so much potential, with his eye set on a degree in electrical engineering.
“What do your parents think about it?” Jorge told me it was kind of difficult to have an in-depth conversation with them as they only spoke Spanish and his primary language was English. This had never occurred to me before – no ability to have deep talks with your parents??? That added a whole other layer to things. He added, “At first they were against my going, but then Mr. L. took us up to see the college and that changed their minds. And Bruce (Main) said he would see what he could do to get some more money for me.” Then, “I really don’t want to have another panic attack. It felt terrible.”
I launched into my what-to-do-when-panicking lecture, having given it to others – and myself – many times over the years. He thanked me and went on his way.
Earlier that afternoon I had been having another intense conversation with a young woman about body parts, and pictures, and boys…trying to get at the root of “sexting”, as it is called. It is difficult to honor your own body when others haven’t, and that can be a challenging cycle to break.
Neither of these “meetings” had been on my agenda. I HAD planned on writing my big picture plans that Jodina was so patiently awaiting. And yet these two talks were clearly what I needed to do that afternoon. I was wondering how I was going to connect with youth this summer…I am realizing that all I need to do is go on daily walkabouts and they will come to me!
I wanted to share a Henri Nouwen quote that made me think of this blog. It’s from Bread for the Journey:
Flesh Become Word (June 24)
The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it! Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.
Thanks for reading, friends. It contributes to my vitality and creativity!