This is the second act of the short play (one act per month) that is based on conversations among youth workers that I have participated in and/or overheard. You are invited to join the dialog. This is the second act of the play. Act I was presented in the April 2005 issue and may be viewed HERE
Shantell: A child and youth care worker (26 years old)
Carlos: A child and youth care worker (30)
Angie: A child and youth care worker (20)
Bill: The overnight worker (24)
Camille: The clinical social worker (40)
Tony: The child and youth care supervisor (35)
A Child: Eleven years old
Children from the treatment center
Setting: Curtain pulls back again on the team meeting. It could be the same meeting or another one. All the players are present around the conference table in the conference room at the residential treatment center. Lighting and props the same as in scene one.
Angie (shyly): One of the kids asked me yesterday if I slept with my boyfriend.
Camille (cautiously inquisitive): Did you respond?
Camille: What did you say?
Angie: Nothing but they started to giggle and ask questions about how we did it.
Tony (alarmed): Did you tell them.
Angie: No. I said I didnít think it was appropriate to talk about that and I asked them to get back to our discussion about their sexual feelings. But Iím not sure I did the right thing, because they started to get silly.
Camille: And what do you think is the right thing?
Angie: Well, thatís what Iím confused about. I never know how much of myself to disclose.
Camille: And you donít think you reveal yourself all the time in the way you express youíre emotions?
Angie: Well yes, but I donít necessarily talk about it.
Angie: Because weíre here to help them with their feelings, not ours.
Camille: Is that so?
Angie: I think so.
Bill: So itís not important that we understand and are in touch with our feelings?
Angie: Weíll yes I suppose it is. How can we ask them to be in touch with their feelings if weíre not in touch with our feelings?
Camille: I agree.
Angie: So how much do you tell them?
Shantell: I donít think we should tell them much. weíre not in therapy, they are. Besides my business is my business.
Carlos: I tell the kids a lot.
Tony: Like what?
Carlos: Like what it was like when I was a gang member?
Bill: Why do you tell them that?
Carlos: To let them know that I know what it was like for them. That Iíve been there and can relate to what how they are feeling.
Tony: Have you really been there?
Tony: Where they have been.
Carlos: I just said I was.
Tony: Yeah, but I mean can you ever experience what someone else experiences?
Bill: No you canít. (philosophical again). We all experience the world differently based on our past and current experiences. There is no one reality or shared experience.
Carlos: Donít give me that bull. I know what its like?
Tony: Maybe you know what its like for you, but not for them.
Carlos: So what are you saying?
Tony: Your experience of being in a gang is not their experience of being in a gang. If you understand what it was like for you thatís good, but it should also open you up to wanting to understanding what it was like for them. Otherwise it robs them of the chance to be able to express their fears, guilt, etc. about being in a gang.
Angie: Can we get back to my issue?
Camille: Yes, lets talk about that some more. In situations when kids as us difficult questions about things like drugs, sex, etc. how much should we reveal?
Bill: Weíll I read in one book that itís better to be open than closed, but in another book I read said that we really should not share our histories.
Angie: I know thatís what makes it so confusing.
Shantell: Look, I was abused as I kid too, but I got over it. I tell the kids this straight up. Thatís why they connect with me, because I can show them they can get over it.
Camille: Letís look at it from the perspective Tony just presented. The important thing is that we understand and value our experiences and not try to impose them on others, but rather let them open us to and make us curious about wanting to understand the children's feelings.
Angie: So we should tell them everything.
Camille: No, thatís not what I was trying to say. What I meant was that our awareness is revealed in the way we present ourselves and if the kids know we understand our feelings and this opens us to understanding their feelings they usually do not need to probe further. But if they sense our lack of awareness they will keep us on the hot seat because they donít feel comfortable opening up to us.
Angie: Thatís difficult, to be like that, so sure of how you feel.
Tony: It sure is. But I think itís not so much about how aware you are as it is about your willingness to be self-aware. The kids know that we are not perfect and donít understand all our feelings, but if they sense we are trying they are more likely to feel safe with us and open up.
Bill: I like the way you put that.
Carlos: I donít. This is just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. The kids need us to be strong, certain, not navel gazers.
Shantell: I agree with Carlos. We have to show them we are strong, not wishy-washy. They need strong role models, not people who are always questioning themselves.
Carlos: Wow, she agrees with me for once.
Shantell: Itís also a cultural thing. In my family we learned not to reveal our feelings to the outside world. Itís the same for the Hmong and Native American kids here. Itís disrespectful of the family, tribe and elders to do that.
Carlos: What have you been doing reading another one of those books about culture. In my world thereís only one culture, the culture of the street.
Angie: I thought you said you were machismo. Thatís a Hispanic thing isnít it?
Carlos: (Smiles at Angie): You got me.
Bill: I agree, culture does influence how we express ourselves, but I donít think we can assume that culture influences all people the same. I know lots of Native American, Hmong and African American people who are very open about their feelings. The key is to be aware of how their and our histories influence the way we interact. There are also many other reasons such as temperament that determine how open we are.
Angie: Itís all so complicated. Iím confused about whatís the right thing to do?
Carlos: I think you are all in your heads too much. youíre trying to intellectualize this thing. What you got to do is just be who you are. Thatís what the kids relate to.
Camille: I agree Carlos, but what does that mean?
Carlos: It means that you are in touch.
Tony: With what?
Carlos: With whom you are man?
Angie: But how can you be so certain?
Carlos: By just being and not asking so many questions, and acting with pride and dignity.
Camille: Is it that simple? Isnít there a sense of false pride and dignity that comes from a lack of self-questioning and awareness.
Carlos: So what are you saying, that Iím not in touch.
Camille: No Iím just asking.
Carlos: Just like a social worker, answering a question with a question.
Camille (smiles): I just donít know how you can be so sure of yourself.
Carlos: Thatís because you arenĖt.
Tony: Okay so I think weĖve gone as far as we can with this for now. Letís move on.
Angie: But I still donít feel my question was answered.
Camille (Still seething a little from CarlosĒ last response). There might not be one right answer. Itís all situational. In one situation itís proper to talk about something and in another its proper to just reveal your feelings by the way you are in the moment. The kids can usually tell.
Angie: But how do you know whatís right in one situation and not another.
Bill: Look, we are all often confused, except for maybe Carlos (said sarcastically). The key is to continually want to know your self and to practice. Talking like this helps, I think.
Shantell: I think a lot of this talk is a waste of time. Gets us no place. If you donít know who you are you shouldnít be working here.
Tony: Okay, time, this discussion to be continued.
Lights dim then raise stage left. A boy and his father are standing together in a bar. A bartender dries a class with a towel behind the bar with three empty stools. A piano solo of My Sweet Irish Rose is playing softly in the background. One beam of light shines down on the bartender, another beam shines on the boy and his father, who has a dart cocked in front of his eye. The rest of the stage is dark. There are no other props, just these and the dark background. A few feet away a target comes into view with another beam of light. The target is held in space by a thin, invisible piece of wire. A larger beam of light shines down stage right. All of the meeting participants are watching. Camille has her hand to her chin. Bill scratches his head. Tony is nondescript. Carlos has an open stance and is snapping his fingers slightly as if listening to some other music in his head. Shantell, her posture rigid and arms crossed in front of chest, looks bored. Angie gets down on the floor and crosses her legs in front of her. Music stops. Bartender and the team participants freeze as if captured in time.
The father (confidently): Hold the dart like this in front of your eye.
The boy (Brings the dart up in front of his eye): Like this?
The father: Yes, thatís it.