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By Christian Schwab

Friday was graduation day for the kiddos at the Save Our Youth academy that I intern at.  It was a bittersweet day.  Bitter and sweet for two reasons.  On one hand, it was bitter because the five weeks seemed like they went by just like that and now I am having to say good-byes to kids that I may never see again.  It is also hard knowing that they are going back into the same environment for the rest of the summer without having the academy as an escape route.  However, it is sweet to imagine what their futures have in store and how they will apply everything that they learned at academy, to their academics, home environments, and social circles.  These kiddos learned a lot at academy, but now it is up to them, with the help of a mentor, to put it into practice.  On the other hand, it was bitter because it was a frustrating academy.  As much as I loved hanging out with these kids and building relationships with them, it was very challenging.  The disrespect, disobedience, and rebuttal was overwhelming.  It was a very draining five weeks to say the least.  However, the sweetness to it all is the anticipation of the next academy.  Just as I am excited for the kids to apply all that they have learned from academy, I am equally stoked to apply all that I learned as well.  These kids sure taught me a lot, but there was one thing in particular.  In the midst of the frustration, they taught me how to be compassionate.  Compassionate to think beyond the present circumstance and into the deep reality of who they are and where they come from.  It is not an easy task, as it is much easier to play stupid and be frustrated at their behavior, rather than realize that they are a product of their environment.  However, there are dangerous implications when that takes place.  You begin to dehumanize the individual and think that “that is just who they are”.  Instead, when you realize they are a product of their environment, you can hear their cry for help.  You hear the cry for something different.  Another alternative.  Something or someone that can give them hope.  Stability and dependability.  These kids desperately want something or someone to cling to.  When one is able to grasp onto the reality that is this person’s life, then, one is qualified to be compassionate.  For me, it is still a work in progress.   


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