Stand By Me – Trusting Again

Stand By Me

For well over a year I have intently studied, observed, contemplated and prayed about adversity along with those tools or skills needed to overcome many of life’s troubles. In my journey of discovery, the findings have been clearly life-changing. Through observation and a willingness to not just see but understand, I have found many of the answers in watching others and the ways in which they have dealt with their own hardships, both good and bad.

Recently I heard a story of a professor from Israel who has designed and implemented a program to help youth of tragic circumstance. Shimon Schocken didn’t let walls get in his way when he first presented his idea to the warden of a juvenile correctional facility, an idea that to most would have been considered unthinkable. His plan was to lead a group of juvenile inmates on weekly mountain bike rides, taking them beyond their prison walls and into a world unlike anything they could imagine.

When I first heard this story, I was shocked that there would be trust enough to release these serious offenders to the outside world, even for a short while. Yet, with faith in the program the warden gave approval for ten young men to experience freedom each week by allowing them to escape to some of the most beautiful regions in that small country. And as they ventured out in discovery of new places, they would find a place beyond boundaries; a place that tests and tries them to the point of change.

Shimon describes the extreme difficulty he had in the beginning with not knowing how to handle some of the youth that lacked the ability to deal with frustration. He recalled a situation where one of his kids crashed on a difficult rocky section and as a result went into an uncontrolled rage, lashing out at anything and everything he could get his hands on. First the bike got stomped on, and when that wasn’t enough he threw his helmet and pack, then finally he turned to a tree to continue his uncontrolled beating, all along stringing a trail of profanities that left Shimon stunned in disbelief. According to the professor there have been many times that a kid would just give up and refuse to go any further as he sat on a rock. He explained that “this would happen in far and distant places, . . . 20 miles away from the nearest road.” So the question became, “How do you get him moving?” Lack of results quickly taught Shimon that harsh words and threats took them nowhere. Yet wisdom allowed him to discover that by staying close by their side and not walking away (like most people in their lives have done) he could calm them, encourage them and help them to move forward much more quickly.

I believe that, though there are many lessons to be taught through Shimon Schocken’s example of patience and tolerance, two words most strongly emulate his discovery; they are love and trust. These kids, many who have lived on the streets most of their lives, learned quickly not to trust anyone, and without trust love is hard to come by. So, it took a professor to teach them the importance of love for the country, nature, animals, biking and members of their team, but most of all themselves. Reaching beyond barbed wire and electric fences, he is able to touch the lives of boys whom society has failed. One such individual he described as having been “abused, abandoned, ignored and betrayed by almost every adult along the way.” Then he continues in explaining, “For when an adult, that he learns to respect, stays close to him and doesn’t walk away from him in any situation, regardless of how he behaves, it’s a tremendous healing experience. It’s an act of unconditional acceptance. Something he’s never had.” So it is through this act of kindness to kids on the other side of the world that we can learn the importance and power in standing by their side and not leaving them alone to make or break their lives. It begins with a gentle hand upon their shoulder and an understanding that they are not alone.

In Other’s Words:

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”

~Anton Chekhov~

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