Strength. Small word with a BIG meaning.
As a volunteer teacher of Impact Society’s HEROES program I have had the good fortune to see literally hundreds of young people realize that living from their strengths is critical to a successful life. And more important I’ve witnessed these same young people light up when they discover their own strengths.
Let me share a real life story to illustrate the power of living from strength. Early in my HEROES teaching career I encountered a truly disheartening situation. One of my students had written in her workbook “I used to run away for 2 weeks at a time. Now I won’t run away anymore”. This statement is unnerving enough but it’s poignancy grows when you learn that the author of those lines was a 12 year old girl! I thought at first that this young child must just be playing a trick on me. However, after speaking with the classroom teacher I was dismayed to learn that this story was true. This girl lived in a highly dysfunctional home. She decided that she would be safer on the street than in her own home. I asked the classroom teacher if I could talk with this student about the situation. He agreed to the idea.
At the next class I asked the student if I could chat with her at the end of class. At class’s end she approached me with a stone face expression – she was suspicious, wondering “am I going to get disciplined again?’.
I said to her, “I read your book and saw the story about running away from home for weeks at a time.” I continued, “I think you’re a superstar!” When I had earlier played that statement out in my mind I imagined she would beam with pride hearing this compliment. However, her look went from stone faced to hostile. I only later realized that from her street perspective, any time an old, white man said anything nice to her they wanted “something”.
But I continued, “No really, you have amazing strengths of survival. I might be able to run away for weeks at a time IF I had access to my car, a hotel, my credit cards and my bank accounts. You have none of that available to you and yet you can navigate all the dangers and perils of living on the street as a 12 year old girl. That requires incredible strength!”
Only at this point did she relent and offer up the merest hint of a smile to appear. I knew then I had a chance for a breakthrough.
“Would you be willing to use your strength to get more positive outcomes for yourself?” I asked her.
Fast forward to the end of the HEROES program. She stopped running away from home. Make no mistake, she still lived in a terrible home situation. But she learned her strength allowed her to rise above her situation. All her grades improved and by Grade 9 she had become a student leader at her school.
You can only imagine how proud I was to attend her graduation and see the real world effects that focusing on living from strength can offer up.
This is only one of many similar stories that I’ve had the privilege of being part of as a willing, enthusiastic Impact volunteer instructor.
– Rick Luchak, COO Impact Society & proud HEROES volunteer instructor