Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Youth Work reflections - Gutter Feelings

The boys were outside...
..... kicking the Youth Club door again.
They were on a suspension from club.
Only a week before they had reached a peak of violence.
They had been smashing numerous car windows and stealing from them.
They then steamed the club swinging iron bars and broken cues.
Then six of them had acquired a scaffold pole and rammed it with force at my office window.
All our windows are made of unbreakable glass (it was either board them up and live in darkness, or grill them up and create an environment of hostility and defence – or this type of glass).

It wasn’t therefore the window that broke but the frame smashed and splintered as the glass bent to allow the metal pole through.
I was upset because ‘Gloria’ my canary Gloria has got to flying for some time. 

Yes, she is OK thanks!

Now the boys were back, eight of them.
I went out to face the hostility while the door was locked behind me.
They were only sixteen/seventeen years of age 
but I faced a barrage of all sorts of abuse and questioning.
Legs apart, arms by their sides,
fists clenching and unclenching,
jaws tight and teeth prominent,
the leaders of the group were frustrated and angry.

I could have stayed with my black to the closed club door 
and facing them stood my ground. 
That is what I felt like doing. 
It was much harder to wander across the pavement towards them, 
thirty feet away. 
I felt I had to, though. 
Still chatting in a warm but firm way, 
I bent down, feet in the gutter and bum on the kerb. 
The boys had moved with me, still slagging me off. 
Circling me and kicking stones around with aggression. 
I picked up the pebbles from the gutter and flicked them across the road with my thumb. 
I felt my back vulnerable as they moved around me like restless wolves.

Before long, however, I was joined in the gutter by one, and then two, 
until most sat in a line talking while the others crouched in the road, 
facing me, only moving for cars going past. 
We chatted on – and the words became friendlier 
and the conversation more positive – 
that leads into another story, but…

The analysis of this was – I had deliberately taken a non-aggressive body posture. 
I had made myself vulnerable, 
very hard to do under such circumstances 
(my trained mind told me to do it, my emotions were telling me to run in 
and slam the door or at least keep my back protected). 
The boys had ‘paced’ me and had followed me into a non-aggressive posture. 
They had a limited repertoire in dealing with conflict 
– ‘Fight or flight’ – 
i.e. fight your way out of aggro – or, 
if well down the pecking order – damn well run!

I have a larger repertoire and was able to think alongside my strange emotions 
and decide on how best to steer the situation, morally, verbally, and non-verbally. 
Emotional Intelligence in action.

Reading and understanding body language 
isn’t just an interesting subject 
– in a hostile environment 
it can be dangerous not to........

I love them.

An extract from
'Gutter Feelings'
my first book

New re-published and extended
View or buy here Paperback or Download

The Photograph above is not related to my reflections
but they are real humans who I have known and loved.