Friday, July 21, 2017

When did you become an adult? - Informal social & emotional education in a YMCA coffee-bar

When did you become an adult?

Soul Undressing
.... a reflection

He looks as hard as nails – hammer and nails. 
To approach him is an effort. 
The pale complexion; the square jaw, broad shoulders, 
heavy build, skinhead, the split lip.

The initial contact is quite a number of “hellos” and 
warm expressions, 
then deliberately, picking upon a personal interest. 
Taking an interest in the damaged lip and the 
cracked tooth helped.

Then we sat around one afternoon in a corner of the 
YMCA Coffe Bar 
with a core group of four- with others moving in and out 
as their personal security dictated.

First of all it was everybody talking at once. 
Then it was questions from me, “in your face” style. 
It became open heart surgery. 
“Who has been the most significantly positive person 
in your life?
The question was answered well.
They all undressed their soul with that one.

There was a massive amount of non-listening – 
all talking over each other. 
I resisted the desire to control, I let it ride. 
When a pause came I asked the next question and 
encouraged them to answer one at a time 
around the table.
“What colour are you – not skin colour, 
the colour that describes your personality?” I asked.

They dived into that one as around us 
the people buzz continued. 
There must have been eight people who answered that one 
as fringe members contributed. 
Eyes became unseeing as each searched their depths 
and scraped for descriptive words. 
“Split lip” was honest – talking in two colours – 
red outside but inside - a sort of 
“pale wood chip wallpaper” colour. 
His vulnerability was showing – 
but the group had already developed 
a sense of trust through self-disclosure.

The big question came when they paused 
and looked at me with expectancy. 
“When did you become an adult?”

The music filledall corners of the Coffee Bar. 
It became still as we all willingly searched life’s 
Then it came with such feeling 
it made my face tighten and eyes glaze with emotion.

Three out of four had been “in care” and 
“becoming an adult” had happened when that happened. 
One other had experienced rape. 
All had become adults at a very early age.

“Split lip” was soon standing alone in the center of the 
room, unaware of his NVC (non-verbal communication) – 
lost in thought. 
The atmosphere was electric. 
There was a sense of deep satisfaction as each of us 
realised we had experienced intimacy.

The group sat around, drank coffee and reflected – 
not only on the self disclosures 
but on the experience of it.


“We become fully conscious only of what we are able to express to someone else. We may already have had a certain inner intuition about, it, but it must remain vague so long as it is unformulated,”
From the meaning of persons, by Paul Tournier.