“Thank you so much U really just gave me hope.”

I got the text about 10 minutes after a chance encounter in the parking lot of a local youth center evolved into a 45-minute conversation. About 5 minutes into our interaction, I could tell he was like so many of the kids I work with…very intelligent with a good heart, but struggling with poor decision-making that led him down a path to consequences that felt difficult to overcome.

What gave him hope was the picture I drew of what can happen in the brain as kids grow up in poverty. It was a start to helping him understand his own reactions and decision-making, along with the things he’s seen in his family. It helped him understand the thoughts that race through his head at night as he worries about what his future holds. The good news, I explained, is that you can re-program your thinking. My message to him was “You can change your brain. And I will help you by finding good people you can talk with who can share new perspectives and by looking for opportunities to plug you into  positive things going on in our community that align with your interests.”

He likes to write. He likes to read. He wants something different for his life. He was nervous about my offer to meet with people, but he is open to it. Those are building blocks for change. We will use these strengths to help him further develop his thought processes and take control of his story. You may be one of those people I call to have lunch with us. That is a way you can help.

The science is now showing how the trauma of chronic poverty impacts brain development. It’s not an intelligence issue. It’s making all decisions from a “survival” mode. You can learn more by reading the attached article. Also, consider hosting a poverty simulation at your church or organization, especially if you serve disadvantaged populations. It will be an eye-opening experience.