On Saturday, I spent the day with some great people in the capital of Texas who are launching an initiative called, “Elevate Austin.” It was a small community of fifty-five youth workers, volunteers and youth pastors who gathered to discuss the needs of the students in the area. They recognize, for instance, that if a child is not reading by the third grade, their chance of going to prison as an adult skyrockets. We met Saturday to examine the challenges and explore what could happen if each of them mentored a cluster of at-risk kids. I love it.
I met a woman at our book table in the back of the room afterward. She brought her adopted daughter, Olya, with her. Olya was born in the Ukraine with only one arm. Because an old Soviet mindset remains in that country, her birth parents rejected her. She wasn’t whole. So, at birth Olya was sent to a foster home as a discard. Fortunately, this U.S. family adopted her and provided a healthy, encouraging family environment. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.
Olya is now 15 years old and doesn’t feel disabled at all. She was a track star in her high school, (she still has her legs) and finished first in the state 300-meter hurdles. Further, as a freshman she not only made the varsity basketball team, she started, and led her team to their first state championship. Did I mention she had just one arm?
Olya, who could be consumed with her rejection, with the funny looks her peers give her in the school hallways for ten years and the fact that she doesn’t have her entire body in tact, doesn’t think about that at all. Why? Because her family has not focused at what is missing but what remains. This is the fundamental reason why kids fail or succeed. What do the people around them concentrate on?
How about you? When you’re with a faltering student, are you preoccupied with what’s wrong? What is missing? Or, can you get consumed with what remains?