Man (Boston Public Library), 2010
I’ve been in Boston for 3 weeks now (halfway through the summer) and really haven’t had much time to blog. It feels like I haven’t had much time to write lately, whether in Pennsylvania or in Boston, but compared to last year, free time seems to be lacking. Maybe it’s the scorching heat that keeps me indoors? For whatever reason, I’ve been exploring less, reading less, reflecting less.
Last year, I would go outside, maybe read by the river for a while, and then walk with no set destination. I would eventually make it back to the dorm about 3 miles later. I have yet to do that this summer. I am slowly making my way through C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Last year I finished 3 or 4 books and short stories. I have 3 other books on my dorm room shelf that might return to Pennsylvania unopened. I also brought my journal along with me and threw a blank journal into my luggage just in case. I haven’t written in either one yet. At the end of the day, I just get too tired to think about, let alone write about, my day. I don’t know if I will have the motivation to catch up on journaling until after this summer.
I haven’t hung out in the boys’ dorm nearly as much this year. By this time last year, I pretty much knew all of the boys’ full names and probably life stories. Right now, I’m doing dinner check-ins for the 14 to 17 year olds, and I’m still asking for their names (granted, there are twice as many boys this year as last year). The boys’ dorm is no longer next door to the girls’ dorm, so it is more difficult to stop by for a few minutes just to hang out. Also, the TV room is on the opposite side of the building from the office. Last year it was all in the same room, and the boys would watch movies or play games while we sat at the computer. We got to participate in some interesting, sometimes profound, conversations and discussions. This year, however, I have gone deeper than surface level with only a select few.
The staff feels different this year, too. Not better, not worse – just different. We are still too overqualified for the work that we do. We still have an eclectic mix of personalities, backgrounds, and interests. And we still have some internal issues. Communication seems to be a little more difficult this year. “Dropping the ball” is a phrase that has been used on more than one occasion this summer. However, there have been changes in procedure around here. We are all getting used to new systems and new methods of communication. Until we all have an understanding of how everything works, things are bound to fall through the cracks.
In spite of professional difficulties, friendships have formed easily among the staff. As a new staff person last year I perceived somewhat of a clique among the returners. This year, it seems like the line is pretty blurred between new staff and returners, even without intentionally seeking out friendships with the new people. The new people I have met this summer are pretty great, though. More than last year, I have found people with similar morals and interests, people who will join me for church services on Sunday, and people who don’t mind staying in while others go to the bar. I didn’t think I would find these kinds of people on staff this year, so I was originally hesitant to return to Boston. Who knew that a significant portion of staff would be just the kind of person I was hoping to find? I’ve enjoyed spending time with some of the women on staff, talking about worship through dance, desires for our faith, and how wonderful God truly is.
The children are interesting. They are more social with each other and more friendly with me than I had expected. All the girls on my floor are 16 or 17, a bit older than last year. Going into this summer, my expectations for socialization were set pretty low, so it wasn’t too difficult to exceed them. We have reached a point, though, where they are tired of hearing me talk at floor meetings, and I am tired of trying to talk over them. It’s moments like the floor meetings when I am glad I did not become a teacher. I would have gotten too frustrated with classroom management and attempting to assert myself.
They are teaching me about the parent I would like to become, should I have children in the future. I’d like to think I won’t become a helicopter parent and that my children will be perfectly fine speaking for themselves. I don’t want to hover over them every moment of their lives and do everything for them until they are completely incapable of independence. I want to raise my children to say please and thank you, to treat other people with respect, and not to take anything for granted. While there are standout “good kids” with positive attitudes and impeccable manners, those who complain are more outspoken. They don’t understand why they can’t get whatever they want, why they can’t expect people to clean up after them wherever they go, why they should call people by their names instead of by their home country, or why “I’m paying for this” is not always a valid argument. Some of the children have a strong sense of entitlement, expecting the world to bend over backwards for their pleasure. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if this is just typical teenage egocentrism and selfishness, but after hearing parents voice their opinions just as strongly, it is evident that the family shares a limited world view occupied by misperceived privilege. They may be used to buying their way to satisfaction and living lives without consequences. They lack the ability to see the broader picture and the perspective to understand that while they want more than what is given, they ought to be thankful for what they have.