Another Week Beyond 2426 – Grizzly to Teddy

by Wilson, Community Worker

Grizzly to Teddy

During one of our recent learning programmes, one of the kids who attended was an often moody, sometimes truculent 8-year-old.  Let’s call him “Teddy.” Our expectations of Teddy were, from experience, tempered. How well he participated in our activities and interacted with others depended on his disposition from week to week.

At this particular session, Teddy was what we had come to describe as “his usual self” – shouting vulgarities and being disruptive. He risked injury by playing with a sliding door, even after being asked by a volunteer to stop. In fact, he began to act out even more.

At one point, an older youth (Syed) had to physically restrain him to keep him from hurting the other children. Syed gently but firmly held Teddy’s arms at his side, and the younger boy struggled to break free. Syed, to his credit, remained calm and tried to pacify Teddy. Teddy did not respond, but continued struggling. We observed what was happening, ready to intervene in an instant if things got out of control.

Since he couldn’t break free, Teddy lifted his feet off the ground, and Syed ended up carrying him. But Teddy was determined and continued to struggle and flail his legs about.  As Syed tried to keep Teddy from hurting himself, his hold on the boy became an unintended hug. We were about to intervene, when something unexpected happened. Teddy stopped struggling and became calm. At peace.

Syed let Teddy go, and the boy sat down quietly. Syed asked him if he wanted to join the other kids.  After a moment, without saying a word, Teddy got up and walked back into the activity room. This was not the Teddy we knew. Throughout the rest of the programme, Teddy was calmer and easier to manage.

What happened? Could an inadvertent hug have transformed this boy, even if just for that moment? Perhaps. But in this day and age, going around hugging people, especially children, could open up an unpleasant can of worms. So, we must tread carefully and with consent. But what if we gave safe, metaphorical hugs? What if kindness and compassion are used as a first-response? We reckon that was what Teddy responded to. A perceived act of empathy. An act that said, “I care about you.”

You see, Teddy is often seen wandering around the community unsupervised. Through no fault of theirs, his parents need to work to make ends meet. So Teddy is alone, lonely and left to fend for himself. We think he expresses his need for care and affection in the only way he knows – like an angry grizzly. In this instance, a simple solution accidentally presented itself.

Of course, what worked for Teddy may not work for someone else, but the underlying principle of this episode is worth contemplating:

Focusing on fixing the visible issues, is just a band-aid.  It addresses the symptoms, not the deeper cause. But it is a start. This incident has reminded us to look beyond the “grizzlies” we encounter in the course of our work, and try and find the “teddys” within. It begins by saying “I see you. I hear you. I care” in word or deed.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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