on Special Ops.

I often find myself in difficult situations, situations that frustrate me.  I choose to do something simply because I want to, or I like the idea of it, regardless of whether I can do it well.  Actually, most of the time, I’m probably not that good at it.  But I want to do it, so I do.  But, on the other hand, not being good at something makes me want to do it more to see if I can master it, and overcome the difficulty, winning over my frustration. Take this student blog for example:  I really liked the idea of it, so I agreed to be a contributor.  But, as my number of posts reveals, I am not too good at blogging regularly.  When I don’t post for a while, I feel as though I’ve let the organizer down, and therefore put unnecessary pressure on myself to write, but the pressure also intimidates me. So blogs end up unwritten.

Special Ops is another situation similar to this blog; I really like the idea of it, but I am not good at it.  Special Ops is a program at LLU where students go to a local high school every Friday afternoon to mentor at-risk high school students, so every Friday several other mentors and I carpool to San Gorgonio High School.

This last Friday at San G (that’s how savvy people refer to it) we broke up into small groups, with one mentor to three or four students.  I don’t know if every mentor felt this way, but I felt that all of the most difficult kids to work with ended up in my group.  They were the most distracting, most distracted, and most resistant.  I do not have a dominating character, nor a dominating voice, so leading the discussion was very difficult.

I sat with them in a circle of desks, juggling their focuses.  I would get one, only to let two others be thrown up into the air.  And while occasionally they would answer one of my questions, which were actually meant to seed a discussion, they would usually state something random, or even tell me to be quiet.  I couldn’t help but laugh, both at the difficulty of the situation and at the things they would say.  I am glad I am going into medicine and not dentistry, because that discussion could be referred to as being “like pulling teeth,” and I don’t know if I could “pull teeth” like that every day.

While the discussion wasn’t as successful as intended, I can’t say it was a complete failure, either.  These kids are smart; they’re just distracted; distracted by their peers and all the pressure they bring. Distracted by insecurities they try so hard to disguise. Distracted by differences and masking their misunderstandings with stereotypes. Distracted.  It’s so hard to get them to focus, but that’s all they need.  They gave good answers to the questions I posed, but refused to focus on the discussion, succumbing to the distractions instead of focusing through them.  But at least I got answers from them.  Good answers.  But I only can see this in hindsight.  I walked away from San G frustrated at my inability to connect with the kids the way the Special Ops leader can.  But Special Ops is something I enjoy overall, and is something I want to do and am glad to be doing.  So I look forward to the difficulties and frustrations of next Friday.

3 thoughts on “on Special Ops.

  1. Zach, we realize that med school is a challenge. We’re grateful for any stories our bloggers can find the time to post, and we definitely don’t want to add any additional pressure to your already-busy schedule. Thanks for being willing to share your experiences with us! 🙂

  2. Zach,
    Life is so much better with challenges! Specially the ones we set for ourselves. I am a pre-med student and enjoy reading your blogs! So thanks for blogging. Love getting all the insight I can get from people who are living out my near future. As for the kids! I totally get you! I work with at risk-teens and know all the challenges that you are facing. Communicating and getting them to open up seems almost impossible at times.. I love what you said about them being intelligent but distracted. They are smart, SO SMART they just never get the credit for it and everything around them tells them otherwise. What I do is try to put myself in their situation (imagine if you will) and talk to them as such. I show my kids I don’t pity them, I LOVE THEM! At first they tend to think the reason i work with them and choose to reach out to them is because I feel sorry for their situation. I just act real and show them LOVE. I don’t talk down to them but just talk straight into them and their life. Thanks for being part of special Ops!!! One day when one of those kids is in the pits, he/she might remember what a kind, gentle, caring person you were. You never know how your words might resonate in someones life. You are awesome! Good luck!!!

  3. Showing up to be there at San G is a success in itself. It seems that showing up is most often the hardest part for us as people–there are so many other things that could eat your time right now. Showing up at the retreat that weekend, having them crank the heater to max, laugh at you in the doorway–all of it, you’re showing up for and that is what I think is really admirable, and will create relationships. I’m darn proud of you Zach! 🙂

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