Today I received an what’s app message that looked like it was going to be a video of the highlights of 2020 but when you clicked on the video play icon nothing happened. It took me a good thirty seconds of hammering my screen to realise it was a joke, that the creator was making fun of the perception that nothing of note has happened in 2020. Amusing it may be but true it is not. We can forget in our instant success-oriented culture that an experience’s value is sometimes directly related to the level of difficulty we encounter along the way. A couple of years ago I climbed Cape Town’s Table Mountain via the India Venster route, no mean feat for someone who doesn’t appreciate close proximity to sheer drops. One of the more challenging hiking routes to undertake, the navigation can be difficult and some actual climbing is required (albeit for short sections). I knew before starting this was going to be a challenge. Fortunately for me it was a foggy morning which served the dual purpose of not letting me see the height I still had to climb or conversely the depths to which I could fall! Which meant I could focus entirely on what was in front of my face, hands and feet and make my way steadily up the mountain. The view from the top was uneventful but since the value for me was in experiencing the climb not seeing the view I was happy. Genuinely I think if had I been able to see the view all through the climb I would have struggled to complete it and may even not have had the courage to start in the first place.
Sometimes not seeing what’s ahead helps us to complete the journey we’re on. This year it feels like curveball after curveball has been thrown at all of us. Like my hike, some days it’s been a narrow walk between the side of the mountain and a sheer drop, other days I’ve found myself arrive around a corner to face a rock wall and wondered where to go next (clue: the only way is up). Fortunately, like on my hike, in my role at WAM I’ve not been alone. I can look back on 2020 and be grateful for all those who suggested where to gain a foothold, all those who at times went first so that I could watch where they walked and for those who walked alongside, encouraging me to just keep going in my wobbles. I’m also grateful for the fog. The fog that meant I had to focus more closely on what I could see directly around me, the fog that gave a reminder of the fullness of our core organisational value – We All Matter. It’s all too easy in times of long-range views to focus on the first two words, to busy ourselves with supporting as many young people as we possibly can and inadvertently neglect the third i.e. to spread ourselves too thinly. We can forget growth is not always numerical. We are not building a youth work empire or trying to conquer the Cotswolds. We do not want working widely to cost us the opportunity of working deeply.