Friday, 3 June 2011

Aspirational acorns

A friend and colleague was beating herself up the other day for having somehow failed one of her work experience people. The upshot of her argument was that although she could see the potential in this person she hadn't managed to persuade them it was there. Most of the other work experience people she'd had showed a positive change in self-esteem and self-confidence by the end of the programme but with this one girl she wasn't convinced she'd made a difference.

This sounds horribly familiar — it's usually me moaning about potential wasted. Having listened to the argument, and having seen the work experience group on an almost daily basis while they were here, I'm sure that my friend is wrong: there are significant positive messages in this girl's experience with us:

  • Somebody took a chance and took her on. From my own experience of unemployment back in the 1980s I know how important this is.

  • Somebody was interested in who she was, not what she was.

  • Somebody was interested in finding out what she could do, not what she couldn't do.

  • And what she could do turned out to be a bit more than she thought she was capable of.
It's easy to ask: "who died and made you God?" but in circumstances like this there is a duty of care and those of us who care want to see things flourish and develop. No, there's been no magic moment of transformation, and perhaps there never will be. But that girl has gone away knowing that someone somewhere has thought that she was worth something more than just what was between her legs and that that something was worth somebody's making a bit of an effort to find it. That knowledge may or may not survive future experience and it may be years or even decades before anything might come of it, but it's there. And that's important.

We're not God, the best that we can do is plant acorns and hope to grow the occasional bit of forest.

There are worse ambitions.

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