Acting Out

I’m living my current life on a rewards system. Because that’s how you shape behavior.

I mean, you could focus on punishing bad behavior.

But anyone who works in the juvenile or adult justice system can tell you that punishment doesn’t work.

And anyone who’s ever tried to change my behavior through punishment knows that it absolutely won’t work. (I can be a bit…stubborn? Hard-headed, perhaps?)

So, every time I follow doc’s instructions, I get rewarded.

I got these for staying under my mileage limit this week. And for kind of slowing down my pace. Kind of.

(Pretty sure I get to tack the miles I was under onto my mileage next week, though…)

And I needed them.

Because the worlds I work in too often show me, repeatedly, the impossible pain and challenge and hopelessness that too many of our children are living.

It was some of that pain and hopelessness that kept me from attending the Girls on the Run 5k Saturday morning. As I was busy making phone calls and driving around Roanoke City looking for a broken kid, some of my powerful friends were out in the rain creating another amazing event for young Roanoke girls. And I love them for spending their time investing in these girls. Helping them be strong and confident and proud.

Friday night I did get to attend (with Rogue, one of my superhero friends who is changing the world in many different ways, thus demanding my respect even if she keeps tricking me into going to North Carolina with her) a magically fun and whimsical show performed by the kids of the Bower Center’s Acting Out program along with the exceptional humans with exceptional talents that are Effulgent Productions. And several of their exceptional friends. The ones that I follow around the theater world like a total fan girl. Because there is little I admire more than humans that are so brave that they’re willing to be totally vulnerable on a stage in front of other humans.

Because humans are super judgy.

And judgment feels pretty ugly.

I went to see Ghostface Killah & Killah Priest (Wu-Tang, for you younglings. Look ’em up. They’ll school you on some things.) a few weeks ago. They allowed two random guys to go up on stage and rap the parts of Method Man and Redman (seriously. Wu-Tang. Google them if you don’t know.) while they performed Protect Ya Neck. And when he invited them up, Ghostface made a point to say (in his special Ghostface way) that it takes guts to get up on a stage and perform in front of people and that act demands respect. So be respectful and cheer like you mean it.

(He also said that if they didn’t really know the lyrics like they said they did, that we could boo them off stage. But, I mean, frontin and all…)

So this Acting Out program.

What my friends have created in this, aside from this incredibly entertaining Seussified Christmas Carol, is a fully inclusive opportunity for kids to be part of quality theater programming. If they want to be part of a show, they get to be part of a show. They have a safe space to fully embrace who they are and exercise their imagination and creativity. Things that are far too undervalued in our school systems.

And in such a broken world, we cannot underestimate the value that safety, acceptance, and creativity offer.

I fully believe that if we invested more resources into allowing children to value and develop their creative, musical, theatrical, artistic, and athletic talents, we would see a tremendous growth in critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to delay gratification.

And those are skills that are key to reducing criminal justice numbers and sending productive, successful humans out into the world.

And wouldn’t that be better than trying to fix all of this brokenness?

(And seriously. Wu-tang. Because hip hop used to be about something.)

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