We have all seen news articles, internet memes, and social media posts reminding us that, “Someone needs to hear this.” At YVC, we value the relationships we have throughout the network. This means we have a pool of highly invested youth development leaders who are there for each other. Over the years, we have spent time talking about recruitment, fundraising, and best practices. While these are all good reasons to collaborate, sometimes we need something more fundamental. Sometimes we need a friend to say, “you can do this.”
Recently, a program leader reached out and asked us for this kind of support. By listening and being vulnerable, we had the opportunity to benefit from answering these questions too. This is a great reminder that we all need to take time to pause and reflect on the value we bring to the world and that we truly are enough.
Subject: Remembering Our Why!
I’m here and ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. Here are two things I’d ask for you in terms of helping me regain some momentum.
1. Remind me why this program is so important. I know, but I need to hear it.
2. Tell me what’s working. Cases are spiking so getting kids together doesn’t feel the most responsible, but I want to get some projects that are safe and valuable going.
First up – thanks for modeling what it looks like to ask for the help you need. That is true leadership and I’m honestly humbled by it.
What’s working? Resilience. Creativity. Patience. I don’t think there’s one right answer right now and much of what we think might work has fallen a bit flat. That’s discouraging, but I remember this season is one where (as you have) we lean on our people, not our productivity. So what does a people-focused approach look like right now since we can rely so little on processes, systems, and products?
For you, that might look like an email or call just like this to some other program leaders. Maybe one to a person you know well and maybe another to a person you’d like to know better. One to a community that’s a lot like yours and one to a community that’s different. It might look like touching base with some agency partners you’ve worked with or know well and just saying “YVC is here. We think your mission matters and we will help by stepping up or stepping back.” It might look like 30 minutes of prayer or meditation in the middle of your work day, when in the past you would have said, “there’s not time.” Maybe you finish all your filing. Or rearrange the furniture in your office. Or tell each one of your children why they are special.
For your young people, it might look like writing letters to their state representatives or pledging to ask three to five of their relatives if they are registered to vote. It might look like asking your youth to arrange a virtual conversation with youth volunteers from another affiliate and just talking or maybe even planning something. It might look like shorter, smaller projects that are outside but in person because youth are just desperate to be out of the house. Maybe that’s a risk worth taking. Maybe it’s not and so you help connect them to a book to read, a movie to watch, a song to listen to that has inspired you to make a change in the world. These are silly ideas. Youth will come up with better ones if you ask.
Why should you do these things? Why, when we are tired, overwhelmed, hurting, confused? Because we are tired, overwhelmed, hurting, and confused. Because we’ve been taught, both explicitly and implicitly, that only powerful people can make a difference and that power looks one way: strong, confident, experienced. Because that belief has gotten us where we are, with our faith in systems that have failed us, ignored us, or in some cases, conspired against us. YVC is rooted in the idea that a person does not need to be strong, or confident, or experienced because young people are rarely any of those things and the truth is, neither are most of us most of the time. Every time we speak up when we are scared and every time we lean in to our discomfort instead of hiding from it, we push back against this system. We resist. We employ small acts of rebellion every time we say, “I don’t know – what do you think?” and every time we say, “I am hurting and I need help.” Because we believe the world might be more just, more kind, more equitable and because our righteous anger that it is not, however that manifests itself, tugs us forward. And for those of us who have followed that tug to YVC, we find ourselves with a platform. It’s not the only or the best, but it is a platform. It’s not a podium. It is a pathway. We don’t find our own voices amplified, but rather the opportunity to amplify the voices of the often unheard. An invitation to step out of the way. We are given the tools not to build it ourselves, but to equip those far more qualified to build it precisely because they are not strong, they are not confident, and they are not experienced. And because there is no logical reason why it should work except that we have seen it work. Not every day, not every project, not every youth. But often enough that we believe, in spite of ourselves, that tomorrow might be better than yesterday and that young people might make it so.
I hope this shines a little light on your why and I’m sending you so much goodwill and thoughts of love that I hope it bowls you over. Good luck – you’ve got this.