“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.“
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently” (Nietzsche)
Shortly after starting University in 1986 (child psychology), I met and befriended a co-worker at the security company where I worked evenings and weekends. This man, Bob, soon became another very significant male role model in my life as I quickly learned about his extraordinary success, and history, of working with troubled boys in Ontario and British Columbia. One day Bob asked me if I would be interested in working weekends as a “recreational counsellor” to the boys currently in his care. Basically I would take the boys out hiking, camping, bike riding, swimming etc. Bob eventually developed one of, if not BC’s first, adolescent sexual offender treatment programs and I was fortunate to be invited to contribute to this program as well. At first, Bob put a great deal of confidence in me since I was a university student in development psychology. I believe he may have felt that somehow this “book leaning” would naturally translate into practical social and group management skills with troubled, and in some cases, volatile young boys, some of whom were physically larger than myself. After a few weekends alone with 8-10 adolescent/young offenders, it soon became apparent who was in charge, and it WAS NOT ME! After one of these very stressful and out-of-control weekends, I approached Bob and explained that I was clearly not the one in charge and was having great difficulty developing a respectful and “in control” relationship with the boys and needed help.
“How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams with its illusions, aspirations, dreams! Book of Beginnings, Story without End, Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Bob’s respectful and supportive response is indelibly etched in my mind. He did not try to “tell” me what to do, or “how” to do things. Nor did he respond with judgement or express any doubts as to having placed me in these weekend positions with all of his boys. Bob simply took charge and told me that for the next few weekends he would come out to the facility and all I had to do was follow him around and watch what he did. EVERYTHING I know today, and ANY success or positive reputation I can claim for the decade I spent working with youth, is 100% attributable to what I learned from this remarkable man, and mentor. Once I got the hang of it with regards to working with groups of potentially volatile and troubled boys, I soon found my groove and began to build strong, successful and respectful relationships with the boys where I remained IN CONTROL. Which, was very necessary particularly when things got out of hand, or the boys rioted. And yes, it is possible to remain “in charge” even when a riot or some form of mass revolt is under way, so long as you know what you are doing, or have been taught by someone who knows what they are doing.
Among the many activities I did with the boys, building models was also something we would do together on a big table. The boys knew I had a love of big trucks and 4x4ing and so when it came time to choose the model I would build, the selection was obvious. That model in the picture signifies the deeply satisfying and mutually beneficial relationships I developed with dozens of young boys while working at the Majuba Hills Treatment Center in Yarrow BC, as well as the many years which followed, working with youth in Maple Ridge and then Prince George BC. Big trucks, 4x4ing and wilderness excursions in those trucks have long been one of my most enjoyable activities and I have explored Forestry and wilderness camp sites all around BC. Not only have large 4×4’s played a significant and personal role in my life as a tool for wilderness explorations into hidden “sacred places”, but these trucks also served as a means to build relationships with the boys I worked with. When I owned that VERY large blue Bronco with the 40” TSL Boggers, the boys in my care would bring their friends outside of the school they attended to show off the “Monster Truck” when I would come and pick them up.
Many of these boys also had issues of abuse, neglect and lack of self-esteem, so providing them with an opportunity to be admired and envied by their class-mates likely went a long ways towards helping to rebuild some of that lost self-respect and confidence. That Monster Truck model represents all of the boys I had the privilege of building a supportive and mentoring relationship with, as well as my own personal explorations of hard-to-reach wilderness and sacred places.