Each child is so unique, so precious. My youngest boy (nearly an adult at this point) is a post-modern leader. He, like Nelson Mandela, leads from behind. He’s all about consensus and the group. He has never been the kid that needs to hog the basketball and make the most points at the soccer goal. There’s a place for those leader types, but that’s not the type of leader he is. It’s a very post-modern/ancient stance.
Because in the West we value the aggressive, take charge kind of leaders–a holdover from pioneering days, no doubt– sometimes his skills go unnoticed in the small rural town where we live that still adheres to Friday Night Light Football. However, there is no single doubt in my mind that he will go on to bring groups of people together to do great things. That’s because I see his unique position in the universe, his gifts to both lead and follow, in an evolutionary kind of way.
That, in fact, has been the theme of my week. Working together and relationship. I see so many groups of people make such slow progress because of two very predictable things: their inability to get along and the lack of passion (compassion) to an overall purpose which serves not just themselves, but all of humanity. They want to be the heroes in the kingdoms they choose–to score all the baskets–because that is what makes them feel best about themselves in their world. They feel they help their team and their egos all at once.
I find this annoying. Yet the truth is, there’s a place for all types of leadership, even the ones I feel are rooted in ego. Because of that, I have made a decision to see the God behind each person unconditionally. I mean everybody. And that’s not always easy to do because some people are just plain obnoxious and mean, and their motives are not always pure.
So what I do is ask myself this question: if I was this child’s mother, what would I see in that child that I loved? What do I see in this person as a strength that I would want to nurture to make that child the best they could be?
That brings me to this week. Our culture often does this “other” thing with children who have mental health challenges. They act as if their own children shouldn’t play with a child who has mental health issues or they may catch it. They stigmatize the child which makes the problem worse. In reality, all of us have experienced emotions, that had they extended past the current DSM measurement, could be considered mental illness. When this happens to children, and there is no net there to catch them, we have wasted an opportunity to direct another change agent.
Yet many places are doing this right. They believe in (alas, invest in) prevention and early intervention (PEI) of mental illness, getting in right at the beginning signs. Someone explained to me this week that in California PEI falls at the bottom of the funding pyramid. By the time we get down through the funds for crisis situations there’s very little funding left.
But, California, wasn’t that what the whole Prop 63 (aka Millionaire’s Tax aka MHSA funds) thing? Hundreds of millions of dollars were to be allotted to prevention and early intervention in children and adults, were they not? It seems to me, having sat in a few of these meetings and leaving completely frustrated, that these monies are being taken over by mental health agencies and not being used in the way they were intended by Darrell Steinberg when he wrote the initiative. Am I right, Mr. Steinberg?
I KNOW there are solutions that would work. Let’s take peer mentoring programs. Children with mental health issues have a tremendous difficulty making true friends and developing solid, stable, healthy relationships. Mentoring programs are evidence-based in reading and social development. Why not have the great mental health advocacy groups joint venture to develop strong mentoring programs where children on both sides would benefit? The mentor would develop compassion and understanding, while the mentee would get a taste of what healthy friendship in somebody close to their age range looks like.
It will take collaborative leaders (and world views) like my youngest son. It will take team work without ball hogs out to stroke their egos. We’re moving in this direction in our collective consciousness. I see it in the kids, and it gives me hope.