As a youth worker in the Crisis Program, I have always been very aware that the time I spend with my youth is only representative of a small amount of their days, lives, and experiences. This year I had the opportunity to share an amazing experience with youth from both the male and female shelters during a day of activities in Whistler with Zero Ceiling. While there are many things I could say about this amazing outing, there is one particular memory that has stuck with me that I would like to share.
One youth that attended the outing, Jennifer, had been in and out of our Crisis Program a fair amount recently. Jennifer was a youth with many strengths but who also at times struggled with the structure of our program and could become very frustrated during daily interactions with the other youth and staff. The first activity of our day in Whistler was essentially an obstacle course up amongst the tree tops. We were informed by the staff there that we could anticipate some physical challenges in completing this. I joined Jennifer and the other female youth at the head of the group hoping to be there to support her if she struggled during the activity. I recall Jennifer expressing being nervous about what was ahead.
As we moved through the course the physical tasks became more difficult. I began to wonder how Jennifer would react to this fun and challenging, but also very frustrating activity. What I was actually able to see as the activity went on was Jennifer handling every difficult task and every mid-air tumble with laughter and a growing determination to keep moving forward. As for me, I began to struggle and grow frustrated with the physical challenges. Our group reached a point in the course where a decision could be made to either complete the most difficult level of the course, or to return to the ground and walk to the finish line. The other youth and Jennifer contemplated their decision and asked me what mine would be. Despite feeling tired myself, I let Jennifer and the other youth know that I would push forward if they wanted to do the same.
Jennifer and another youth decided that they wanted to keep going, and I joined them. I remember as I struggled through the last few tasks I could hear Jennifer a ways ahead of me shouting encouragement behind her and giving me tips on how she had made it through each task. By the end of the course the youth and I were back on the ground, out of breath, and with huge smiles on our faces. I had never seen Jennifer’s face light up the way it did in that moment, and she told me a couple of times she was very proud of herself. I felt so grateful to share that moment with Jennifer, and to be reminded that the youth have just as much to offer us as we do to offer them as their workers.