The Doorway is still busy putting into searchable form, the writing and learning archives from our 30 years of listening. The Listening Project has been born; and it is beginning its useful impact by offering perspectives that can inform and teach in our current timelines how young people experience our society. A wise volunteer observed many years ago that children and young people reflect us! They do not arrive in the world and create new contexts. They adapt to the contexts we offer them.
Young people experience society before they are even conceived! They do not ask to be born. They arrive out of decisions and choices made by adults. Responsibility immediately comes into play. How do we respond to care for the person we have created?
Society through government has developed systems to assist with our responsibility to our children. And so we have medical services, education, child-care and so on. Traditional supports offer consistent attention and help in the gaps.
Young people for whom these measures do not work, or are interrupted by circumstances of reality, are still a critical piece of our responsibility to humanity. They, in fact, are regarded as a priority commitment of society.
How then does it happen that we have young people who are alone, without support, and specifically without the advantage of sufficient nurture to build themselves as persons who are able to realize/achieve participation and belonging in society?
With such a priority regard by society, these ‘outsider’ young people must be seen as human beings rightly deserving our best interpretation and application of ‘justice’.
Catherine Lu, a political philosopher at McGill University has written that “justice is the hallmark of human society. … Justice is an ideal which requires no superhuman efforts for its attainment, but cannot be effected without human will or effort, and these are most lacking when injustice is done.”
Her final phrase is disturbing. Children who experience gaps in their nurture have seen injustice. Whether the adults around them agree or not, from the child’s perspective they have been left behind, ‘labelled out’ of mainstream, and through their stages of development, have not benefited from the interventions imagined by the best sources adults can muster.
The growing scale of this aspect of our society should do more than alarm us. It should challenge us to seek better questions, and better techniques to intervene. Or perhaps we need to ask different and strong questions about the inability of the systems we have created to deliver their purpose for children?
We see every day that young people thrive with the active respect and belief of adults in their personhood. Kindness is golden and costs nothing. Kindness offers safety and hope.
James Orbinski [Doctors Without Borders], wrote this statement at the end of his book ‘An Imperfect Offering’: “The most important thing any of us can do is to actively and pragmatically assume our responsibilities as citizens for the world we live in. … no one can do everything but everyone can do something.”
To be continued…