To see them learn to support each other, encourage and rely on each others strengths whilst compensating for the inevitable weaknesses, was nothing short of an incredible privilege. In fact, the more time I spend with teenagers, the more convinced I become that I can learn an inexhaustible amount from their openness to share, not only their struggles and their hearts, but crucially their amazing supply of reach for the sky dreams.
It was incredibly humbling way that they allowed themselves to be corrected and were so open to learning new things, something I want to mirror in my own life. I'd previously thought myself to be quite a non-judgmental person but seeing the acceptance these guys showed has caused me to reassess.
I was deeply moved by a story one of my boys had to share. Often judged on his skin colour and clothing, he is arrested constantly for no good reason. Since people obviously have this expectation of him, I think its nothing short of miraculous that he's fully committed to a crime and drug free path. Having got to know him its obvious that he has a massive heart and is both incredibly laid-back, and a natural leader, a rare combination.
I was constantly astonished by the maturity I found in these teenagers, and the wealth of experiences they have to share already. They fully embraced learning about each others cultures, quickly showing great understanding and respect to a Muslim member of our team whose commitment to prayer and fasting was admirable.
Conquering fear is a daily accomplishment for the challengers, whether it be abseiling, public speaking, or spending time with an Alzheimer's patient. Without exception I saw each of them rise to the expectation to challenge yourself.
This has been an incredible experience for me and I hope for the teenagers as well. I know that what I've learned this summer will stick with me and most of all I want to take away the openness to embrace people whatever and the clear truth that life is not a decided thing! So much is yet unwritten and its not to late to change attitudes or expectations.