Some people think 13- and 14-year-old boys are great. Some people find their antics to be endearing and entertaining and have a relatively high threshold for their ridiculousness, horse-play and awkward jokes. To be perfectly honest, I am not one of those people. I do, however, love bearing witness to the transformation that can and does happen in these boys as they begin to learn how to control their impulses, have honest, thoughtful conversations, and see for themselves the potential they actually have. I love seeing these boys take healthy steps towards being the kind of men Honduras needs, not disregarding their sense of fun and play, but adding to it a sense of maturity and responsibility. In my (almost) two years working for UrbanPromise Honduras, I've had the pleasure of watching this process at work in the male Lideres Jóvenes that work for us.
One such young man was assigned to my Vacation Camp team of youth this past January. He's been working for UPH since January 2012, and while he had never been on my steady team of youth (he worked at the other camp), his reputation preceded him and I was under the impression he would be a trying addition to my team. Don't get me wrong, he also has a reputation for being great with the kids, and I had seen that first-hand as he subbed at my camp during After School Program. But I was nervous about losing my mind with his jokes and immaturity during meetings (when my sanity most needed order).
Camp has begun and ended and I only have a few more gray hairs. This young man turned out to be one of the best members of my team. He was a source of laughs when the team needed that extra jolt on days we were tired. He was serious and offered mature feedback during our team meetings. He offered to pray on a regular basis to open or close a meeting.
On our last day of camp, about 10 kids had won an ice cream cone for being on the team that won the most points throughout the course of our Vacation Camp. After clean-up, our team of 8 youth, the 10 kids and I made our way down into town. I told the kids that they needed to be holding onto a leader's hand at all times for safety, and this particular young man had one on either side and one tugging on the back of his shirt (not exactly a hand, but I let it count). As we walked, some one who clearly knew this young leader yelled out some greeting to him and then in attempt to offend yelled, "¡Oye! ¡Vos! ¡Parecés niñera!" ("Hey! You look like a nanny!") The youth looked down at the kids surrounding him, chuckled, and realizing the truth of the statement, turned to the would-be offender and said with a smile, "Sí, ¿va?" ("Yeah! Right?").
It's moments like this that happen so quickly, but so clearly demonstrate the character that is developing in an individual. A few months ago, if this exact situation had happened, I don't think his reaction would have been the same. I think this leader would have shut-down in embarrassment instead of letting this comment roll off him. It's quite possible that he may have even hurled some sort of insult back, shattering what I would consider his example and reputation as a leader with the kids who were with him. But he didn't. Instead he affirmed his care for the kids by his lack of embarrassment and the fun expression on his face.
13- and 14-year old boys still aren't my favorite demographic. However, if I choose to see them not as they are, but as they can be in one or two year's time, it makes it a lot easier to smile when they turn the lights out in my office as they walk by because I know it's only a matter of time before they catch it: the maturity and progress in young men that seems to be so contagious here at UPH.
Kourtney De La Cruz- Camp Agape Director