A while ago I had the chance to volunteer with an organization that helps young people who live in poverty. While timing a hula hooping contest, I started asking the kids and some innocent bystanders questions. Things like... what's your favorite color? What's your least favorite subject in school? Would you rather lick a smelly sock or chew on a cotton ball for an hour?
So the kids started asking questions themselves. One girl said to the group, "Would you rather be poor or rich?" I couldn't wait to hear how the brain of a 10 year old would process and answer this question. The first girl blew my mind. Keep in mind, these are elementary aged kids living in poverty stricken situations.
She answers: "I would be poor." Hm. Interesting. I ask, "why?" She replies, "Because then I wouldn't be selfish. And I wouldn't be mean to other people who don't have money." (says the 10 year old) After I let that sink in, I ask the next child and he says, "rich.”
The first girl asks, "Why rich?" And he says, "Because my country is poor. And I would like to be able to save it.” When I asked where he is from, he said, “Mexico."
This is why I say the youth of today are not our future. They are our right now. When we’re counseling young people, we have to remember the context of their circumstances when diagnosing, treating and walking along side them through life. As hope continues to dwindle in our culture, think about the amazing ways we can instill hope in our young people. And by instilling hope in our young people, by exploring their minds and emotions, we are instilling hope in our future. Whether you’d be rich or poor, all of us working with young people have a responsibility to instill optimism, positivity and hope.
Kristina Walsh is a counselor-in-training at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, completing her internship this year in Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Care in Harding Hospital at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.