“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
-Madeleine L’Engle, author
Each youth in our program has a story, and we allow them to share it on their own terms. It can be difficult at first, being in a new program with people you do not know. However, most of our youth start feeling comfortable revealing parts of themself to the group over time.
After moving to the independent living building where our program takes place, Travis joined us in our third session. Kayla had been asked to show him around and thought he would enjoy becoming a part of Million Little. Before bringing him in she let us know that he was very shy. And as soon as he arrived and sat down, he echoed the same disclaimer.
Though Travis he was quiet, he was not closed off. He enjoyed being a part of our group, laughing and joking along with the others. And he began to open up about his past and the things he wanted out of life, including meaningful relationships. But his own self-doubt worked against him when it came to friendships. Though people were friendly to him, he second-guessed their intentions. “I always think people hate me, even if they like me,” he said.
“I always think people hate me, even if they like me.”
Sierra responded in a light-hearted tone though her subject matter was serious. “I’m the opposite”, she said. “I think people love me even if they hate me.” We felt this was a very significant statement because despite the let-downs and hardships of her past, she still sees the goodness in others. This can be a strength that she can use to motivate others to recognize their potential. At the same time, it can be a hindrance. Just because someone has the capacity of goodness does not mean you have to endure their contrary behavior.
The two laughed at their admissions, but the vulnerability they displayed in this moment was a significant moment. Both their realizations show the importance of reflecting on our perceptions of others instead of taking them at face value. Maybe we’re writing off someone’s friendliness because we don’t feel worthy of kindness. Or perhaps our own good nature makes us see more of the good than the bad in others. But having the courage to be vulnerable and share our perspectives can provide us with valuable insight into ourselves and others.