Sometimes the hardest and most important job of a Friend is to help a kid stay a kid.
Meet Laura,* a nine-year-old youth in our program
who loves to swim, play, write and pretend to be a princess. Laura has
been going through some significant trauma recently, but you wouldn’t
know it watching her romp through the aisles of a grocery store,
surprising her Friend, Alice,* with bear hugs.
When we asked Laura how her Friend helps her, she answered, “they
play with me, help me with math sometimes, help me spell words, play
with me–oh, I already said that one!” This is a simple and accurate
description of Alice’s role in Laura’s life right now. Laura’s
characteristic spark and bounce went out of her when life got especially
tough for her and her mom. While Alice can’t change those
circumstances, she can be there for them, and provide a space for Laura
to play, heal and be her silly self again.
Part of what makes Laura feel safe with Alice is the schedule they
keep. Laura pays close attention to the weekly schedule with her Friend.
They occasionally go on special outings, like to the ballet or a
children’s play; however, Laura looks forward to every Monday when Alice
spends time with her in the classroom.
Lately, Alice has been bringing one of her first graders on outings
with Laura to give her the opportunity to act as a kind of big sister.
For instance, Laura will keep the younger girl entertained, but also
remind her that they can’t do certain things when they’re in the car. It
also allows Laura to practice the Core-Asset of Belonging—knowing that
she is accepted and that her contributions count!
Laura’s joy in filling this more mature role shines through when she
talks about the future. When we ask her what she wants to be when she
grows up, she turns to Alice and exclaimed, “You already know what I want
to be when I grow up! It’s a mentor.”
*Youth's name changed to protect their identity. Photo does not reflect youth in the story.