Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weaving a Web of Relationships

During a recent family crisis, I was struck by how many people came forward to support us as we rode our emotional roller coaster.  Our family, with roots deep in the local community, is blessed to have a huge web of relationships here.   Having been here all of our lives, and being over forty years old, my husband and I have had time (and the inclination) to interact and develop connections with many people.

Support came from my work, his work, friends of our children, church,  residents of our little home town, relatives on both sides of the family, and our friends.  Each of these different strands of our web of relationships had many branches, weaving a sturdy safety net around us.  Even if people in a couple of these categories hadn't stepped forward, the net would still have stretched far and wide.

This safety net of positive, supportive, relationships is what I wish for when I think of our local youth.  So many young people have only a few threads of relationship that are robust.  When young people are not engaged and involved in their community, they miss the opportunity to widen that net of relationship.  If they have a few friends at school but no close relationships with staff, do not work or volunteer outside of the home, are not involved in clubs or sports, and have no relatives that live close by, they may have only a slender line of support if their immediate family undergoes major stress.

There are a couple of barriers that may get in the way for youth.  In our mobile, fiercely independent society we may not value relationships that are not as deep as those with our close friends.  But in a crisis, some of our more casual relationships may turn into the ones that sustain us.  A smile or quiet word can make a big difference.

Also, our society has trained us to be suspicious of one another, especially when it comes to adults being in relationship with young people.  I hope that we can move toward a community where it is normal for young people to get to know and appreciate more of the people in their towns.  Where children can develop a wider, stronger web of supportive adults in their lives.

We can help build these strong webs of support for young people if we adults pay attention to youth who weave in and out of our lives, even those who are not relatives or children of our best friends.  Sometimes just acknowledging that you see them, and appreciate them being there can make a big difference.  Providing them with opportunities to learn new things, and recognizing their progress and contributions builds relationship and bonding. It weaves new strands in their webs of relationship.

Perhaps today you could make an extra effort to reach out to a young person in a positive way?  Make eye contact, smile, and ask how their day is going...even if they don't show a reaction, it may make a difference in how they view their community and their place in it.

1 comment:

  1. Love this from our five town community that cares programs..I especially love the section of how our society has become paranoid of adults having friendships with adults...Sadly due to many reasons, but there are those of us out there like myself that really enjoy working with our youth and I know I have already made a difference in some of "our" kids lives...Some of this probably comes from going... through what we have with our son so again something positve comes out of everything negative..Our teens need more than chores, babysitting, being stuck in the house, pressure's of school, peer pressures from friends, the list continues. Sometimes, it is another adult relationship that gets these kids through another day. Sometimes just going out for a burger, pizza, movie, gym, and other "little" things is so HUGE for these kids. It is my hope too that more and more parents will become more aware and open!!