last week we did a final deep:black ‘personal leadership’ session with a group of homeless young adults living in a hostel somewhere in the suburbs of East London’s. something had shifted over the three sessions and i was really struck by how much vulnerability people were allowing us to see in this last session. i got a glimpse of lives twisted into spirals of mental health issues (depression or psychosis or at times both), low self-esteem, unemployment, addiction.
i found it almost painful when we explored the concept of ‘needs’ and one of the young men started speaking about ‘neglect’, then really struggled identifying what neglect looks like. prompted by our questions someone else came up with ‘physical neglect’ and it took the group some time to consider the idea of ’emotional neglect’. traveling back on the train i noticed all the shrill xmas billboards and really felt the weight of the ‘success’ messages portrayed: happy family homes where the loved ones gather around a seasonly decorated table for a festive meal before sharing gifts with each that cost a lot of money.
if i can already find this overbearing, this other spiral of ought-to in order to be part of the success story how might this be for some of the people in the hostel? an uncomfortable article in the guardian this week suggests that there’s no easy way out… i was mulling this over yesterday when i walked past this discarded ‘table football’ which reminded me of a funny discussion we had with the group prompted by a big ‘table football table’ in the middle of our training room – it turned out that i only knew the German non-German word for it (kicker) and my colleague Katharine only the French non-French word for it (which i’ve now forgotten) and the people in the group found that hilarious.