knowing

I am technologically challenged. My 11-year-old set up my iPad when she was 9. 

I recently moved from a smartphone to an iPhone. I constantly go back to the store with the new phone asking them to show me how, what, and where. There is so much, so incredibly much that I don't know, that I don't understand and that I am not good at. This gets me frustrated, frazzled, and all together bent out of shape.

Today I met my new group of girls. As hard as I try I will never understand their world.

We pass a ball around. "Tell me something you like," I ask.
"Smoking," she says.
"Cigarettes?" I ask.
"No, crystal meth," she smiles. "Just keeping it real Ms."

I feel like my phone crashed and I don't know what to do. "Okay," I say, "I appreciate your honesty.

If I have learned anything from my phone, it's if you press the buttons too many times, bad things happen. I move on - we laugh. I answer questions. They are hesitant, shy, but altogether well behaved. They are so tough, but really? Delicate as my electronic devises.

As my assistant and I are walking out, we stop to talk to the probation officers in charge. I have to say that although at times they can be challenging, I truly adore the people who are on the Thursday shift up at Camp Scudder.

They tell us that we really need to be careful of what we hand out at the final performance. I have no idea what they are talking about. 

"The paper you handed out." We created a playbill to give to the guests who came. "There were things there that were not cool. There was gang related material."

"WHAT???" My assistant and I are in shock. There is so much we don't know. There is so much we don't understand. I get a little nauseous, kind of like when I thought I lost all the photos on my phone. "Oh my god! We didn't know," we say.

The sweet probation officer whom I have been working with for four years smiles a big smile and says, "How could you? So, before you give anything out, just give it to us to look at." He said it simple and clear; he wasn't angry. "There are things you can't know, and therefore don't see." 

I have to say, not only didn't we see it, what we did see is embarrassingly naive. We tell them what we thought and what we read when we looked at what the girls wrote and drew, and they laughed out loud. "It's ok we don't always know or see it, but then the kids tell us. We know you are doing good work, just pass things through us."

We can only know what we know.

But at the same time, we must always be open to learn more, to reach for things that seem out of our realm. There are worlds of difference out there waiting to challenge us. We need to accept that and push forward. 

I think of my new group. I don't know them yet. They are a little skeptical and very weary. I know that in 10 weeks they will be different, and by then I will know them. 

I open my heart to learn, I open my heart to teach, and I open my heart and make space to let them in. 

There are things i will never understand. There is a constant learning curve, just like my phone - that I am still struggling with. But I know that once I figure it out? I can get so much information and connect with anyone anywhere anytime. It will all come together.

We can't see what we don't know, but we must SEE in order to know. As I enter the new girls' names into my computer, I stop. I look at each name I write; I think of what she likes, what her favorite food is, and I try to see her. Because this is how I will learn. Not by the crime she committed or her file or the complaints written about her.

I will learn by hearing what matters to her. I will learn by listening to her voice and helping her find one. I will learn by accepting that I do not and cannot know her world. And just like my phone, I will do everything I can to try and understand. I will have humor and in time I will figure it out.