“Without purpose that is bigger than yourself you’re more likely to serve only yourself”
As I sit and write this blog the freshness in the air seems to mirror the mood that accompanies the start of the new academic year. The permitted laziness of summer has abruptly ended, the atmosphere outside no longer encourages continued languishing and instead the startling coolness of autumn propels us into a season of new challenges, new relationships and new rhythms.
But in all this new-ness familiarity can breed contempt. We are used to these seasonal cycles, starting the year with a new focus, a new energy and resolve to achieve the things we lost along the way last year. It is the new-ness that gives us the energy to start the year well but it is having purpose that enables us to keep going. Purpose is like the fuel that feeds a fire, without it we burn out, go cold and fail to change the atmosphere around us.
Knowing our purpose, our motivation for our actions requires some self examination. When working with vulnerable and at risk young people it becomes massively important to know yourself well. Our state, our values and our worldview all influences our actions and decisions often without us even realising it. Therefore we have a duty in every relationship we form with young people this year, every strategic decision we make in our organisation to ask “What is the point?”
It’s important to ask ourselves what does a young person need from their relationship with us? What do they need from a new project? I am always baffled by the stories in the media at the start of term about issues with uniform compliance at school. Young people are reportedly sent out of lessons for having trousers that are too tight, too short, too long, the wrong style of shoes, bags or hair. There are well articulated arguments for the benefits of uniform (although incidentally an often referred to Oxford Brooks study by supporters of uniform was sponsored by the Schoolwear Association) but I am left wondering whether Schools need some critical self evaluation of their motives for the meticulous policing of young people’s dress.
For us at WAM we are looking forward to all that the new year will bring but we will endeavour to remember that the purpose in our work must be centred around young people’s needs not our own or what we start this September will burn out with little to show for it.