there's a fine line between discipline and grace.
before working at a youth homeless shelter in edmonton, i was all about the grace. who cares if 'they' break the rules? they need love!
but now, it seems as though i've made my way on over to team discipline.
there's a group of youth (two main ones, actually) who come into work all the time and cause a ruckus. and by ruckus i mean acting like they own the place; cussing at high decibels while there's kids around, opening packages of sweet and sour sauce just to flip them upside on our furniture, throwing garbage at each other and soda at other guests. (true story). most wont even acknowledge me when i say hi, and 99.9% of them leave their garbage on or under their tables, and truthfully, I WANT TO SNAP EVERY SINGLE TIME.
but i don't. because i'd lose my job. and even worse than that, i'd be adding my name to the list of people who act on the frustration they feel towards (some of) 'the next generation', and truth be told, i don't want to be on that list.
i do, however, want to be on a different list; a list of leaders who have an unshakeable belief in a young person's potential no matter how poorly they act, and a list of adults and mentors who extend grace when they do.
is discipline necessary? absolutely. should a student (or anyone, really) be kicked out of an establishment for being disrespectful? for sure. but should they be blacklisted? i don't think so.
of course, this whole thought process stems from a few events that happened at work this week.
a few of 'these' kids came in the other day, and truthfully, as soon as i saw one of them, i wanted to do everything i could to 'make sure that he paid' for the mess he left the day before. (and by make him pay, i mean keep my eye on him and make sure he cleaned up his mess today). within minutes, he and his friends were throwing pop bottle lids at the tables next to them. seeing this, i approached them calmly and asked them to stop. a few minutes later, i see another lid fly by. this time, a lady got up to address them as i gave them a look. then boom - another lid. LIKE HOW MANY POP LIDS SO THESE KIDS HAVE. WE DON'T EVEN SELL POP BOTTLES. i went over there and gave it to them. (and by gave it to them i mean raised my voice a little and told them that if i have to kick them out they're never coming back on my shift). "miss, it wasn't me", one said, as he pointed to his friend who nodded his head as if it weren't him either. "i don't care which one of you it was", i said, before giving them a speech about being associated with who they hang out with. i walked away feeling good (and powerful). I'MA SHOW YOU WHO'S BOSS.
later on, however, i felt like a tool. not because i stopped them from throwing lids around or gave them a heartfelt pep talk, but because i said that they wouldn't be welcome back if i had to ask them to leave that day, because, well, there's a fine line between discipline and grace.
another group of students came in shortly after, and i decided to take a different approach - a proactive approach - and it worked. (sometimes the best thing to do isn't to try harder, but to try different).
so here they were about to leave a huge mess when one of the girls made eye contact with me before very quickly making her way back to the table to clean it up. "thank you", i said in front of her friends when they came back and asked why she was 'doing that'. "you give me hope for young people today", i said, (or something just as cheesy), while looking her right in the eye. later that night, she came back, smiled at me and gave me a high-five, and you know something, that felt way better than telling the other ones that they'd have to throw their lids around elsewhere.
as for me, i'm working on my balancing act and trying to get better at this every single day by reminding myself that behind the inappropriate behaviour lies a big fat why. (there's always a why).
truth be told, at the end of the day, discipline is necessary, but grace is life-changing. (i know this because it changed mine).