Today I was reminded of the importance of hanging out.
I spent the afternoon with a good friend. He is committed to me, and one of the patterns of interaction we have is that he nags me. Nags me about the things I might do that would be good for me. These are not his opinions; they are things we have agreed to, that I have committed to – that I then do not follow through with. I could write a book on why I do not follow through – but that is not what I want to discuss now. What I want to discuss is my most recent afternoon with him. I have not seen this friend for several months. Thanks to the internet we are in contact several times a week – sometimes he nags me and sometimes we just connect. This week I got to see him.
In the days leading up to seeing him I was reflecting on all the things he would/could nag me about, and I began to prepare my defense: all the reasons why I had not followed through this time. When I did finally see my friend, he hugged me, told me it was nice to see me and spent time being with me. Not once in the several hours we spent together did he nag. I felt relieved. I felt valued and cared for. I felt genuinely connected.
In her article, Hanging Out, Geeta Somasundram (2005) wrote about the importance of hanging out, and how much it is valued by the youth we work with. Thom Garfat (1999) talks about how as adults we may see hanging out as doing nothing, and therefore not value it as worthwhile. Reconnecting with the experience of hanging out, I am reminded of its importance. If people had walked by my friend and me this afternoon they may have assumed that we were doing nothing: we were hanging out. It was very important. It was essential to the development of our relationship.
Those of us who work front line: let’s reconnect with our ability to hang out. Take the time to talk to our colleagues about the importance of intentionally being with – not always programming or nagging – the youngsters who we are privileged to spend time with. Share with your supervisors the editorial by Thom if they question you. Be prepared for the youngsters to question your motives, especially if this is new behaviour in your program.
‘What is the value in hanging out?’ you might
still ask. I refer you to the writing that has been previously done related to
this skill of Child and Youth Care practice. And then I ask you to reflect on
the last time you hung out with someone who was important to you; I am confident
that you will answer your own question.
Garfat, T. (1999). On Hanging Out. CYC-Online, October. pp 7-8. See the Editorial here
Somasundram, G. (2005). Some characteristics of a child and youth care approach in work with addicted youth. In Garfat, T. and Gannon, B. (Eds.) Aspects of Child and Youth Care Practice in the South African Context. Cape Town: Pretext. See an extract of this article