Guest Writer: Andreas Moeller
Life is hard. It is full of suffering. As such, it is important for a person to have a sense of meaning.
Meaning gives someone a reason to be alive, a reason to try. Without meaning, a person is like a ship at sea without a compass, at the mercy of whatever storms or weather may come their way. The worse things become, the more you need a compass.
At-risk youth, as a group, experience an incredible amount of suffering. This is evidenced by a harsh statistic: Foster youth are diagnosed with PTSD at twice the rate of U.S. War Veterans.
Almost all of the youth I coach carry some form of intense trauma. The reality of at-risk youth is often a dark one. Meaning is especially important if they are to build a fulfilled life.
One of my guys has a story that illustrates this. He experienced a lot of abuse/trauma as a child and early teen. As a result of these experiences, he became a nihilist, he believed that life was utterly meaningless. If life is suffering and life is meaningless, then there is nothing to redeem life; it is best for life to end. His worldview led him in a predictable direction, and he ended up in a mental health facility.
LifeStrengths, I Pour Life’s positive youth development program, aims to enable and empower youth to succeed. For some youth, this looks like teaching them practical life skills. For others, this looks like engaging in deep, worldview-challenging dialogue.
This youth is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met; Cooper did not need new information. He needed a shift in his operational belief system.
The material of the LifeStrengths curriculum is profound; it is useful for whatever stage or season of life a person is in. As I coached this youth through the topics of Relationships, Identity, Situations, and Emotions, we frequently found ourselves using the material as a launching pad into incredible conversations.
To reach the level of depth needed to challenge his perspective, I had to deepen my own. The result was a mutually transforming process and a deep trust.
There was another result: He found a sense of meaning. Cooper is now one of the most goal-oriented individuals I know and has dreams for the future.
He has been accepted into a workforce development program, is moving into an apartment, and will be starting a career in IT. Cooper found a sense of meaning, a reason to try. I am incredibly thankful to have been a part of his process and look forward to watching him succeed in a great way.
“Study Finds Foster Kids Suffer PTSD” The Harvard Crimson https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2005/4/11/study-finds-foster-kids-suffer-ptsd/
“Haunted By The Past: Foster Children With PTSD” Foster Care Newsletter http://foster-care-newsletter.com/haunted-by-the-past-foster-children-with-ptsd/#.XxX78ojYrrc