We’ve all heard these phrases, spoken them ourselves about our own lives, and helped family or friends through circumstances where these phrases apply all too well. Some of us, if we are lucky, don’t have to endure the heartache these simple words bring with them until we are well into adulthood and can somewhat deal with them in a healthy way. Some of us too, have these fantastic support systems of friends and family to help us through times that challenge us. But then there are those of us whom, for unknown reasons, get thrust into challenges and dire situations at a much too early age. How does the universe determine who gets to breeze through life with few problems and who has to endure tribulations that sometimes we think we will never survive? We may never understand why certain things happen to some people and not others, and maybe we aren’t meant to understand.
What we do know is how we handle these events can either plunge us deeper into despair and sorrow, or catapult us to a better place if we so choose to channel our energies in that direction. This may be an easier task if you have had enough life experience to truly comprehend what is going on and make the right decisions moving forward. But when life deals you a bad hand earlier in life, those experiences are not generally there to draw from. We do not even know where to start, or how to start, in picking up the pieces and changing the direction of the momentum in our lives.
Having taught for 14 years, I have seen a lot of kids endure some pretty ugly situations. For some of them, they still struggle to overcome their challenges, to change their life’s path. Some still do drugs. Some still sexually offend. The list is lengthy and sad. Some have even committed crimes that have landed them behind bars as adults. So many of these kids have gone through things in their incredibly short lives, which most middle-aged adults would shudder at the thought of going through. It is so difficult to see them battle within themselves and try to comprehend why they struggle so much to “get it together.”
But then, every once in a while, you come across a kid with something deep inside of them that you can sense, but can’t explain. These kids have a drive within them that pushes them, propels them to do something, to change their life’s path. And they do! Why does this happen for some and not others? You see the same type of kids in front of you who go through the same kinds of life-altering events in their lives, yet the outcomes are so vastly different.
Every single one of these adolescents is a very special person with an incredibly varying list of difficulties and struggles. However, woven throughout these adversities sometimes emerges an inner spirit, a drive for change and for something better. They all have a story to share, and a lot of times they want to share it, need to share it. These are the stories of those kids who overcame their challenges, and of those who continue to battle them.
Eric is currently conducting one of his workshops in-house with our students. I have been completely blown away by the response that our students have given Eric and this program. I have kids in class who struggle to write a sentence for me, write an entire page in a few minutes for Eric! Kids who have declared loud and clear to me, “I don’t write. I don’t like to write. I can’t write. You can’t make me write” who end up writing; and write from their gut. Some of the responses from my kids:
“I love this workshop. I have never wanted to write before. Now I do.”
“I can’t believe that I am going to be a published author!”
“I want to write a book now!”
Eric really works to connect with the kids on an emotional level and can elicit written responses from them that astound me. He works from the very beginning to create an atmosphere of acceptance and safety that allows these kids to express themselves not only on paper, but also verbally in front of their peers. It is an extremely awesome scene to witness. You can definitely feel the healing that is going on with the kids through this process. The kids want to continue to write and carry the process on long after Eric is gone. Some even ask to work on their own stories in class and after their work is done. Kids ASKING to write because they WANT to.
This workshop is truly amazing and will touch whoever chooses to embrace it and dig deep into themselves.
Sarah Lankford, Special Education Teacher, State of Missouri
About Stories of Hope:
Stories of Hope is a compilation of heart wrenching, and liberating short stories written by youth participating in Writing for the Soul Workshop™ around the world. Through a unique structure offering both engagement -and reward, this workshop brings education and passion together in a way that offers permanent life changing impact. As noted in the forward by educator Sarah Lankford, these unique and amazing individuals have received a rare opportunity to share a story they needed to share … and develop a love of writing as a result.