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eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 68 SEPTEMBER 2004 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

administrators and kids

A walk on the mountain

Mark Gamble

Sunday evening, family asleep. I sit peering at the illuminated screen of my PC. In bold type it says: "Tasks for the week." I reach for the cup of tea next to me and take a gulp. It is cold, it is Rooibos, it has no sugar. Healthy, but not very tasty, what others would call an acquired taste. The list includes among others: Enquire for section 18 tax relief, account payments, plan community consultation meeting, finalise disciplinary, confirm date for AGM.
Also on that list is the name Gavin.

The job of Director entails a whole lot of sitting, compiling reports, submitting applications, setting budgets and the like. My vocation however is Child and Youth Care. I am about creating opportunity for young people to live into their potential. I am 11 yrs in my vocation, only three years in this job. It took two years, but I have come to love what I do, for the simple reason that I have embedded Child and Youth Care practice into my leadership. I am a child and youth care worker first and a director second.

Hence, Gavin is on my list. Nine years old, the only resident remaining at James House for the holidays. All sorts of labels could be placed on the kid, but he is quick to smile, does an amazing somersault and has asked me to take him for a walk in the mountains.

6.00 am, Friday morning, I am scrabbling in our shed to find our hiking stove, my old backpack and a box of matches, cursing as I cannot find any matches until I remember that my wife now keeps them under the kitchen sink. Kissing children and wife goodbye, I grab our aging dog and head for work. It is a beautiful day. A day that calls for bacon sandwiches, fresh air and laughing children.

Gavin is waiting for me at the gates of James House, Beanie on his head, set for adventure. He explores the contents of the shopping bag: "What’s this?" he asks referring to the bacon and "Oh lekker!" seeing the fruit juice. He greets Sebastian the dog who kindly submits to a pat on the head.

What conversation do you have between a 36-year-old and 9-year-old? Not much really. I certainly wasn’t walking along the base of Table Mountain to engage in a counseling conversation with this youngster. I had very little interest in Spider Man, and he no doubt wouldn’t care much to hear about my struggling meditation practice. No, we were going to kick pine cones, look at spider webs, slide on pine needles, run with the dog, and then eat bacon sandwiches.

A rock outcrop became our restaurant, Gavin informing me that he has many restaurants, one next to a waterfall where he and I and a few other youngster had walked some months ago. He also had a restaurant close to the beach. "That’s where my mum lives."

"So you own restaurants?" I ask.

"Ya, lots." The extravagant reply.

"Then you know how to cook?"

Big smile: "I know how to cook."

"Well, sir," I tell him, "I would like to order two bacon sandwiches for myself and my friend — Oh and please cook a few extra bits for the fine dog, Sebastian."

And there is that moment of life held now in my memory, in my heart: Gavin squatting next to a small hiking stove stirring the frying bacon around the pan with a rotting stick, smile on his face, aliveness in his eyes. The dog lying close by with nose savouring the smell.

I needed the walk in the mountain as much as Gavin. Needed to remind myself of children, of potential, of the ever-available quality of Spirit available to us in the Child and Youth Care field.

It is all too easy to get lost in that little office, behind radiated computer screen. Lost in busy-ness. I fear then that my heart might become a stone-like thing and feeling would shrivel and become a distant scent no longer known to me.

But then, luckily I am a child care worker, I am about creating opportunity for young people to live into their potential.

I know a really fine restaurant at the base of Table Mountain, serves a really fine bacon sandwich. Hope you get to such a place sometime.