When you’ve worked with young people for a number of years there isn’t much that shocks you. You get to hear about the best and worst of humanity. Sometimes young people share things with you that are incredibly hard to listen to and at other times they amuse you with their childlike antics.
Just the other day a group of 14 year olds said they had played knock-a-door-run, an activity that generations of children and teenagers have played. There is something reassuring to know that those young people still have enough innocence and naivety in their characters to engage in such games when so often they are portrayed as being weed smoking hooligans with no regard for societal expectation.
Then out of the blue comes something truly shocking. During a getting to know you activity with a new group of 13 year olds last week, I asked the question “If you could time travel either backwards or forwards, where/when would you go to?” Imagine my horror when one young person replied “The 1980’s because I have heard that video games were really good back then”. I was mortified to have to explain the shocked expressions now clearly visible on my face was due to the fact that I left school and passed my driving test in the mid 80’s!
This got me to wondering when are you too old to be a youth worker? One of my workers, back in the day, is now in her 90’s so she would have been in her 50’s at the time. Although I was aware of her being older than her fellow youth workers, she did not present herself as old or fuddy-duddy in any way. In fact she exuded more energy and enthusiasm than many of the workers.
I remember my mother had a wooden plaque above the kitchen door. In true British 70’s seaside style it stated “You’re only as old as the person you feel, and when you stop feeling you’re old!” Double entendre aside, I really believe that youth work keeps you feeling young and that in itself is a good enough reason to carry on. So putting aside my bruised pride I have picked myself and reminded myself how fotunate I am to be working with so many brilliant young people. Together we can grow wiser not older.