"The right kids were there."
If you are an aspiring youth worker reading this blog remember that quote. Having the right kids in the right place at the right time is a huge part of doing good youth work. It is also a huge part of enjoying youth work.
Last week two vans full of DinoMights pulled into the parking lot in Minneapolis after a 10 hour drive all the way from Kids Across America Camp in Southern Missouri. The strange thing about it was that everyone was happy. Ten hours is a long time, and no matter what we do there's always a bit of "hockey smell" embedded in those vans. So why all the smiling faces?
The right kids were there.
There is a temptation to believe that more is better all the time, but it is not. Of course, we see the need. 37,000 people living in the Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central Neighborhoods and almost half are kids. Organized, safe, and constructive activities for those kids are more and more difficult to find. So one would be tempted to say, "Let's bring as many to camp as possible."
Here's the problem, and the important lesson for youthworkers: Each kid is a unique, special person with a complex web of factors influencing her/his life at any particular time. In other words, no program, camp, or activity is going to be right for all kids all the time. What was great for one kid may not be great for another. Those two kids are just too different they are not going to fit in the same box. Also, what was great for one kid last year may not be great this year. What's going on in his/her life right now changes what he/she needs today.
So when you go to KAA, on the border of Arkansas and Missouri, in the middle of the ozarks with kids that shouldn't be there you are not doing anyone any favors. It's not fun for you and it's not fun for them. Instead try to find that right mix of kids that is ready for whatever the event happens to be. It will be the most meaningful for everyone.
That's not to say that it is a failure if someone doesn't have a good time, or you should never bring a kid who is struggling on a trip. That may be the right thing at that moment. But, you as the youth worker are responsible for discerning that fact. If you are considering taking a youth on a trip and your youth worker instincts are telling you not to, or your time in prayer is giving you a bad feeling, then maybe there is something to it. It won't be the end of the world if someone doesn't go.
At any rate, this year the right kids went to KAA, and they had an excellent time. It was fun, meaningful, and it drew the group closer together as a community of faith. I'm especially thankful for the leaders on the trip: Eric, Candace, Lenny and Ellen (a last minute addition to our trip)! Thanks for the long drive, and for caring about our kids. They are good youth workers. I'm also thankful for the Spiritual growth we're seeing in the kids. Camp has been a huge influence on the lives of DinoMights over the years, and continues to be this year.
A couple of kids who didn't go to camp came to visit my office this week. Not going to camp has an influence too. The time I've been able to have with these couple that missed out on camp this year has been beyond valuable. I guess that's why I've come to this conclusion about having the right kids in the right place at the right time.
By the way the contest is still on. There have been no correct guesses about our coming guest. If you guess right you will have first crack at the brand new Dino Gear! It is going to be cool 15th anniversary DinoMights apparel, so read the clues and make a guess. Of course, you can also comment about the article as well.
1) I'm an important part of hockey history. I live in Canada, but travel a lot.
2) On my travels I've spent more time in cooler weather climates. On occasion, I've spent time in warm weather, but I can't swim. I have almost drowned a few times.
3) I have spent some time with the DinoMights in the past. Most recently we were in Detroit together, but I haven't been to a fundraiser for a while.