Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Lending a Hand

Like most teachers I find incredible satisfaction in helping children. There is no greater feeling than helping a student overcome an obstacle or realise their full potential as an individual. Assisting a child to overcome sadness or an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness however is incomparable to anything I have experienced in my relatively short career as an educator.

Recently, I learned through a family contact of a young student called ‘Justin’ (not beiber I assure you, I just couldn't think of another suitable alias) that was suffering from a considerable amount of stress and sadness over his recent acceptance of his homosexuality. ‘Justin’ felt totally alone and uncertain over what course of action to take in telling his family about the young man he has always been.

Due to both my own personal experiences and my passion for helping kids I knew it was my duty to provide any and all forms of available support to ‘Justin’; not to mention a pivotal opportunity to hand down my wisdom and unique insight as a young gay man. What I didn't know was just how powerfully ‘Justin’s’ pain and sadness would affect me.

Listening to his story, I couldn't help but relate to the frightened and timid young man who sat quietly opposite me. His sad and innocent eyes were focused so intently on mine, as if he was trying to drag the answers to his seemingly insurmountable problems from the depths of my mind.
With all the courage and wisdom I could muster, I looked ‘Justin’ straight in the eyes and told him all about my own experience about coming out; assuring him that like my own supportive and loving family, his too would accept and love him no matter who he loved. 

Our conversation ended up lasting well over an hour but once it finished the timid and frightened young man I had first met was replaced with a bright and bubbly teenager with an infectious optimism about his future and family. What’s remarkable about this transformation isn't simply my involvement or even ‘Justin’s’ incredible strength. It’s the fact that out of all the adults in his life, it was a 4th year student Teacher who barely knew him, that was able to remind ‘Justin’ what he already knew; that he was a perfectly unique and loveable young man, who not only deserved a bright and happy future but would one day soon, have one. 

It’s facts and encounters like these that remind me exactly why I have committed my life to helping both the LGBT and non-LGBT youth of this country; to provide hope to those that have forgotten who they truly are.

By Matt Russo

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