It Starts With One
It was lunchtime. “I’m asking you for a hero buck,” one learner said to another, as his tone darkened.
“Wait… was he serious?” Everyone’s eyes darted, looking at each other.
They went to investigate. A few minutes later, words of accountability and truth came flowing from his heart to his friends. This learner had felt like he was treated unfairly – and had finally decided to speak up about this dynamic that had started as silent as a seed – and had grown and grown as it had been allowed… At first, the offending learners didn’t budge, standing more in defense than in empathy. They made excuses and justifications for their choices – and the emotional disconnection was visible. Yet this learner didn’t give up – he didn’t take no for an answer. He continued to share his testimony and feelings – and soon, one lone voice turned into two… and then two voices turned into three, each building on each other’s testimony and passion. As these sheepdogs kept digging deeper, sharing more feelings, examples and getting more vulnerable, hearts softened and eyes welled up with tears.
“I felt that way too when I first started,” shared one of the offending learners.
“Me too,” shared each other hero as they joined in. All 5 remembered what it felt like to be treated unfairly. To be excluded. To be controlled. To be joked at in a sarcastic way – with words that cut to their heart – but had been too afraid to speak the truth in the moment because they, too, wanted to be accepted and liked. They, too, wanted to be “cool”.
One voice, brave enough to shatter the facade with the truth, had turned to three. Three unyielding voices had soon turned to five. This dynamic was done. And the tears, apologies and hugs that happened between them showed it.
Another brave voice rose above the rest. “Here is a piece of paper,” he announced. “Let’s all write down everything we feel bad about. And then let’s destroy it together and let it be done.” The paper became FILLED with comments, including a few of my own. The heroes destroyed the paper into tiny pieces, and in celebration and honor of the important work they had just accomplished together, they walked outside to the dumpster – where they let the pieces go and walked away… FREE. This was their journey to take – and they came out stronger on the other side, unified together as a new tribe.
Vulnerability is a gift that few experience. Yet, when one breaks the silence, others are attracted – even invited. Vulnerability is like fresh air rushing into a stuffy room. The calmness that floods each soul. The assurance that even in the midst of the chaos, a path is revealed, showing that everything will be alright.
At ages 9 and 10, these heroes know first hand the power of kindness, vulnerability and reconciliation – and after experiencing the opposite, won’t soon forget it. What a precious gift. The Acton journey is messy at times – even unfair at times. But the Acton journey is real and authentic. It’s powerful and transformative. You can’t hide here – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.