Sometimes there are situations or conversations in life that trigger specific experiences and emotions. The tricky thing is, other people don’t know what those triggers are!
Every week we have women & men who meet with Jr. High students after school for our Guys & Girls 180 clubs. At these clubs, our leaders often prepare games that are linked to a topic for discussion.
For example: When teaching about positive communication, students are given a tube of toothpaste, 1 bowl, 1 spoon and 1 straw. They are instructed to squeeze all the toothpaste into the bowl – which they thoroughly enjoy! After their toothpaste is completely emptied, they are instructed to put it all back in its original container…not an easy task to say the least! After they struggle for a while with their spoon & straw to put the toothpaste back in, the leader tells them how this activity is like the words we speak: words can fly out of our mouths so quickly and without much intention at times, but it’s impossible to take them back once they’re spoken. The lesson: think before you speak, don’t say something you’ll regret that you can’t take back.
We cover a wide variety of topics at our 180 clubs, including things such as perseverance, peer pressure, safety on social media, communication and habits to name a few.
One day, Felicia* was leading a Girls 180 group in a discussion about toxic friendships, which helps the students identity what qualities might make a friend unhealthy in their life. The students are given scenarios to either act out or read together, then are asked to formulate a response to protect themselves from toxic friendships. Examples of a toxic friend include: The user, betrayer, manipulator, controller or judger. Helping students identify these qualities will help them establish friendships that will be positive in their lives.
During the discussion, Mariella* began to cry uncontrollably (something in the conversation triggered a very emotional response). Felicia talked with Mariella to try and help, but Mariella refused to share any details. Felicia asked Mariella if she was living in a safe environment, because she was concerned for her well-being, but didn’t push the subject further. No details were shared, and it was evident to Felicia that even Mariella’s friends were surprised by her reaction.
Clearly, something was going on in this young girl’s life that caused her to react so strongly to a simple lesson. And as difficult as it was for Felicia to see the struggle without knowing the specifics, she offered unconditional love and care.
We never know what someone else might be going through, but we do know that the Holy Spirit is with us to guide our words. Felicia was praying throughout the conversation for wisdom, and trusted God with the unknown details.
Mariella returned the following week and shared about her struggles at home, which is a huge step because it shows she felt safe to share about her life. She was offered some tips and encouraged to seek help when she needed it. By the end of the meeting Mariella was giggling with her friends as they enjoyed their snack.
At LO, we believe in “divine appointments” – these are appointments that God sets up. God has placed us all in different circles of life, with different friends where we can be effective. Felicia was God’s perfect person to have that conversation with Mariella, who learned how to establish positive relationships for her future.
*Names changed for confidentiality