Mobilizing the Dignity of a 16 Year Old

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The tears of a sixteen year old girl at one of the youth workshops I gave last month still haunt me.   The small groups of 6 youth apiece were still in their circles.   We were talking now as a large group of about 60 of what we had just experienced.  In their small groups, I had asked them each to tell a story of one person they knew who gave them hope, someone who loved them.

The rest in the small group listened to how the person spoke of that role model.  As they listened, they looked for the good qualities of the person speaking and wrote them on a 3×5 card.  When the person finished speaking, each of the members of the group read what they had written about the speaker and then gave the card to them.

They repeated the process with each person in the small group.  Each person had heard 5 versions of their positive qualities by now.   As a large group, we were talking about that experience.  This is when the gently weeping 16 year old girl said that this was the first time in her life she had ever heard anything positive spoken about her.   I’ve heard versions of this before.

Now that this girl has had her strengths recognized and named, she can begin  to see the value of her strengths.  She is far more likely to choose to demonstrate  her strengths in action now.  If she were to go without the experience of her  strengths and had no words for them, how could she ever value them enough to  make the effort to choose to act on them?

Resilience is all about making a positive decision based on strengths that we might  not otherwise use.   This takes practice.  That’s why the Unity Project methods  help kids experience, name, value, choose and act on their inherent  strengths, their dignity.

Our strengths are like gems hidden in a mountain.  The Unity Project uses service  and the arts as a way to mine these gems, to elicit the experience of these  strengths.  Once they have been mined, they are shaped and refined through the  Unity Project’s Transformation Exercises. These help to appropriately name and value these strengths so that they might be more easily chosen and acted upon.

By practicing these stages, by mobilizing the young person’s dignity, the young people are building a personal sense of efficacy and a set of competencies to make and act on dignified resilient decisions.

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