Monday, March 29, 2010

The Process of Change

A cold and rainy weekend in March in New England provides us the opportunity to consider the process of change.
In nature, change never happens in a straight line. The seasons do not move from winter to spring through each day being one degree warmer than the day before. Instead, we have a warm day, and we notice buds on a tree. Then it snows. The crocuses come up, then the temperature drops and we wonder if they will survive. It’s very cold and raw, yet we see some skunk cabbage by the side of a river. We get discouraged, and say things to each other like "I am so done with winter. Is it ever going to warm up?"

Yet if we compare May to February, everything is different.

In February, if it is 45 degrees, we say: "A warm spell!!"

In May, if it is 45 degrees we say: "It is so cold!"

The parallels with our work are obvious. The children don’t get better each day in a clear progression. One day, Juan responds with kindness when another boy is upset. Staff make hopeful remarks to each other. The next day, Juan says something very mean to that same boy. Staff feel hopeless. Marcie has not had a restraint in months- maybe she is changing? Then she does and all feels lost.

Yet often when we compare this month to last year at this time, Marcie is substantially different. She is going to school and doing her work, and has not hit anyone in months.

We loose track of these changes. Now we complain with great intensity that Marcie is using a sarcastic tone when she speaks to us- forgetting that a year ago she would have hit us.

We have to learn to look for the snow drop in the snow, the red buds on the spring trees in the cold. Let’s rejoice in the warm day and point out the yellow willow to each other. When we see the small yet certain signs of change, we will have the strength to hang on through the raw days. Remembering to notice changes over time will help us celebrate the miraculous transformation we help our children achieve.

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