I watched the news about the recent California earthquakes. I was fascinated to see how differently families responded to the seismic shifts that took place. One family that was interviewed slept outside following the quakes. The housing structure did not feel safe to the children, so their father moved everyone outside to help the family feel better. I do not know if it was the right thing to do, but it was right for that family at that time and sometimes all we can do is focus on where we are at this exact moment and deliver the best we have.
Years ago, I was asked to speak with a group of teenagers who had become part of the juvenile justice system. As I was sharing with the 15 boys regarding their decision-making, most were at least pretending to listen. One young boy, however, was simply annoying. He fidgeted continually, talked lots and was generally disruptive in his behavior.
The security assigned to our room kept trying to reign in the young man’s behavior. Finally, I asked the security to leave the room. I continued to teach, and the young boy continued to annoy me. But my actions had communicated to the rest of the group that I was willing to trust them unless they proved me wrong.
The young boy had completely gotten on my last nerve and I was glad when time was nearly up for our session. One of the young people asked me if I would return and I explained that I only went where I was invited to go. So, if those in charged invited me to return, then I would.
When I shared what it would take for me to return, the young boy who had moved around constantly, talked out loud continually and ridden my last nerve suddenly went very still. His hand shot up in the air (the first time he raised his hand before talking). I took a deep breath, held back a loud sigh and called on him.
He looked at me intently and said, “Ms. La-Verna would you please come back? I need someone to come who believes in me.” In that moment, my heart broke. I recognized that it took every ounce of self-control for that young boy to express something that held deep meaning to him and that through all his disruptive behavior, he had been paying attention.
Later, when I checked on his background, I learned that the young boy was in the system for nearly killing the owner of one of the local stores. When the reporters asked his mother how she felt, she explained that she had eight children and could not spend time focused on all of them. I learned that he had spent months living in the streets and he had been hungry.
Everyone is someone’s family. The question is what type of family? Is it a family that will do its best to care for all members regardless of the seismic shifts that come or is it a family that will allow the shifts to destroy it?
Yes, everyone is someone’s family, and everyone needs someone to believe in them.
La-Verna Fountain is president of Meaningful Communications Matter, LLC, a consulting and training firm specializing in personal and corporate communications. She retired from Columbia University she served as Vice President for Strategic Communications and Construction Business Initiatives. She is the author of two books, The Alphabets of Life: A Simple Guide to Simply Living and The Gold Coins: A Supernatural Adventure Inspired by True Events (published under the pen name, Sa’lia Friend). You can reach her at La-Verna@meaningfulcommunicationsmatter.com