At any age, one likes to feel competent and confident with most daily tasks. But anyone with foreign travel experience will have personal stories about the equalizing / leveling effects of any language or cultural differences. Even the simplest arrangements, such as calling for a cab (in a town that has no formal street addresses) can bring a “mature adult” to their knees in seconds. Heck, just asking my temporary roomie for a script that I could use to order a cab, was humbling… There was no way that I’d let him overhear my butchered Spanish:“Necessito un taxi…”
For some crazy reason I’d committed to direct work with young adults, adopting a fresh program model and philosophy, alongside sincere staff who seemed to be “chill” beyond anything I’d ever known, personally. So, with much trepidation, I stepped out of the taxi and into an impressively engineered rock and wood house that, at that moment, was in standard evening mode. The guys barely flinched upon seeing me. In fact, I questioned whether they even realized I’d walked in to their space.
This was “ah hah moment # 1”: They weren’t being rude or distant… They were totally engaged in conversations, cyberspace, cooking, listening to tunes, watching a hysterical Australian comedian, doing laundry, doing homework, playing ping pong and pool, and unwinding after a long and hectic day.
What was disconcerting or even unnerving, was a phenomenon that I describe as “extreme non-codependence”…quite disconcerting to the more anxious and needy among us, yet SO refreshing. It became clear that their demeanor was “nothing personal” and that it was a sure sign of healthy young adults, exhibiting boundaries and a sense of safety and self-assuredness, even in the presence of strangers.
While it’s quite easy to reward guys in a program for performing like polite chimps for visitors, the seasoned “milieu observer” will be far more impressed by participants who feel entirely comfortable being themselves, “warts and all,” with stuffing hanging out at times… That’s life, and a program that respects “life on life’s terms” for residents is evolved and healthy.
So, to recap: Point 1; Self-assuredness and healthy participant boundaries without expectations for rewards or “cookies” in return is a subtle but clear differentiator for this program, in a sea of “competing” programs. If healthy “separation and individuation” are the primary challenges and goals of adolescence, one would expect and/or want to see signs of success in those developmental milestones in young adult personal growth programs.
Kudos to the Bridge AND New Summit Academy, for their huge successes in this regard! In my mind, this REAL strength and clarity is entirely worth the price of admission. That, along with the peaceful nights that parents can have, knowing where their kid is and that they’re cared for in a safe setting.
One thing is abundantly clear. These guys feel safe physically and emotionally at the Bridge and NSA. Granted the newer arrivals show some chinks in their armor or emotional stuffing sticking out at times, especially as they try too hard to impress others… A painful scene to witness as their theatrics go unrewarded in light of the “extreme non-codependence” that I mentioned previously.
That was my first impression, based on my first 10 minutes on campus. I’ll stop while the going is good, and follow-up with subsequent “ah-hah moments’ lessons” in the next blog. I hope that the hard-working teams at NSA and the Bridge can take a moment to truly read and take in what I’m saying here: Somehow in the brief timespan of a handful of years, Dr. Heather Tracy, Dr. Danny Recio, James Woody, Roxie, Raffa, Jeanette, Don Mario (a very sweet and patient father-figure who operates the red taxi service on which the program relies), Luke, Woody, Matt, and a scant few others, have pulled off a miracle… They managed to establish a kind, positive, balanced, respectful, gracious, mensch-like culture that is close to being self-perpetuating.
They have sowed and nurtured seeds that continuously yield two communities that fiercely protect the emotional safety of their home-away-from-home. While schools worldwide have been forced to launch “NO BULLYING” educational campaigns, these two little communities quietly go about their business, having set a bar on expectations for peace and cooperation that is largely unspoken and yet every bit as impressive as the host county’s declaration of neutrality so many decades ago.
The kind loving supportive “bro ethic” (you are your brother’s keeper) is one in a million other than in the armed services and other similar bonding experiences. Yet it's sustained itself across years of peer groups at the Bridge and at NSA. I feel confident that I will find the same, only more durable and resilient when I return in early June for a 10-day stint.