While at the BVS Europe retreat in Berlin this past week, I heard for the first time about the death of a long time Quaker Cottage "teen group" staff worker. I met John while volunteering for a summer at Quaker Cottage. (I have relatives in Northern Ireland and found QC on google-- it was actually through Quaker Cottage that I heard about BVS rather than the other way around! Long term BVS volunteers at the time told me about the BVS Balkans placements; I'm now in Mostar through BVS.)
Anyway, I had fallen out of touch with the people at Quakers and thus it was only this past week that I heard about John's death this winter. He had left his job at Quakers with the dream of moving to Latin America. I remember bus runs (to pick up kids) with conversations about his dream of doing ecological work in Latin America, learning Spanish and being in a new culture. Sadly, he didn't live to carry out those dreams, but he will be remembered by all who knew him as a warm, wise and witty man with an amazing gift for connecting with teens. The summer I worked with him, I wrote down things he said (to me or to the teens) in my journal to record what I was learning from him. I wanted to write some of them down here as a tribute to John.
Ya ever met a ragin' hippie? That's me! It's my world and I can't have people messing it up. That rubbish you threw out window just made your community look a wee bit worse.
If you can get more than a syllable out of a teenager, that's a victory.
Stolen any cars? Done any drugs lately? (That's what I always say to teenagers I haven'tseen in a while!)
You're going to come out of that movie ['when the wind shakes the barley'] hating the English, but don't worry. We all do.
No fighting. Sort it out like.
Have an opinion, and be prepared to defend it. You need to challenge them. Ask open-ended questions-- who what when where. If a kid's not self confident, he won't be able to justify himself in response to a "why?" question because he'll assume the adult's right.
I'd rather eat my legs!