Friday, May 14, 2010

Takes One to Know One

When I helped each YALA Peace girl set up her own blog, I encouraged them to write every week. I sent them inspirational ideas like writing compliments on little pieces of paper and leaving them around school for people to find, and then writing about the experience in the blog. I told them to think of it as a daily journal, as a sketch of everyday life, as a place to observe their thoughts and growth...

I couldn't wait to read what they had to say - but everyone didn't write. What everyone DID do was change their photos multiple times, to blond American pop stars and sometimes a picture of the movie star who plays a vampire.

I wondered why these kids didn't put their own pictures or thoughts on their blogs, but kept returning to these celebrities they love. Didn't they see how cool and interesting they are themselves?

Then it came to me: "It takes one to know one."

Every time we love something in someone, we must have some of it in ourselves in order to recognize it and prize it.

Suddenly I knew what I had to share with my YALA stars.

Inspired the brilliant psychological work of Debbie Ford, I planned what I would do at the next project meeting. Ford emphasizes that what we can't stand in other people acts as a mirror for our own dark parts, the shadows, that we don't like to see in ourselves. The same goes for our light: the light we have within, we can see shining out of others. We recognize this light outside of ourselves and allow ourselves to shower all our love and adoration on these others. When we recognize our own light, we can harness it and turn those amazing qualities into true leadership, manifesting all our intentions and dreams into the world with confidence and completeness.

I arrived with a secretive smile, anticipating the reaction after my kids did this work. They sensed the mystery and got very excited. We decided to sit closer to the sea than usual, and a magic wind arrived to fill the sweet silence.

I had each girl think of someone she admires, someone she finds simply amazing.

They visualized this person, and let their minds focus on what they love so much about them. Then I asked them to write 5 qualities that they respect and love in this person.

They decorated these pages: made them beautiful to represent this person they find incredible. Some chose famous musicians, some chose their mothers or fathers, some chose friends. They could share or keep their lists private.

After each page had been carefully written and lovingly decorated, honoring the person and the qualities they admired most, it was time for the surprise...

I asked them to put themselves in the place of their favorite person. Don't even think yet about what it means, I told them -simply replace your name for the person you chose.

So if someone wrote, "Avril Lavigne is sweet to all her fans and they all love her back", I had them write: "I am sweet to all my fans (friends) and they all love me back." If someone wrote, "My dad is always seeing the best in people", I had them say out loud, "I am always seeing the best in people."

Whoever wanted to share said a sentence like this out loud. I had them think for a minute how the sentences they just made about themselves could be really true, as true as for the person they initially wrote about.

One by one, each girl lit up as it dawned on them: there WAS truth in each loving sentence with their name in it!

They were suddenly flying with laughs and happiness.

To honor the best in each Yala star, i wanted to show them how to honor THEMSELVES. This is more important than any outside critic or fan. Honor yourself, I taught them, and you will see even more light in others.

Because, after all, it takes one to know one.

These new leaders are building crucial confidence in their real star qualities, and finding that they can generously see starry light in others and connect with them and bring it out so that all can shine.

This leads us to the next stage in the YALA Peace program: YALA stars mentoring younger children at the Arab Jewish Community Center's American Corner, and imparting their leadership training onto them. Once a week, each girl will direct and lead her own workshop with younger kids. Sometimes they will lead special workshops in pairs, and draw from activities and exercises I have introduced to them throughout the year, using our paints, music, and cameras. Each girl will decide what creative experience she wants to share, and it will be her chance to independently guide younger kids towards the self-expressive confidence she herself has attained.

To congratulate the girls before the start of their new and exciting work, I presented each YALA star with a rose.

They felt like royalty and ran to the sea shore to collect beautiful washed soft glass and stones shaped like hearts.

With pastels they wrote messages on the grey stones and folded up their messages of admiration to give to their intended recipients. These kids are like the colorful washed glass we keep finding by the sea - becoming more beautiful with their new experiences, transforming and letting the light shine through.

At the end, they had new light in their faces.

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