Saying Your Piece and Having Your Peace
By Yana Jayampathy
Over the summer my mom and I moved from Yonkers to Rye, where we didn’t know anyone. That meant my mom would sign me up for anything going on in town, which is how I found myself attending a Rye Youth Council program entitled, “What Matters Most” at the Rye Free Reading Room, preparing myself for four hours of being in a room full of strangers.
I wouldn’t call myself shy, but my apprehensiveness was well-founded: I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and all my mom had told me was that we were attending a “communications workshop”.
We walked into the busy library, and by that time I already had a solid game plan: avoid talking to anyone for the duration of the meeting. That was until my mother, never one to shy away from new people, marched right up to the organizers, and my strategy fell to bits.
Enter Beth Gallos, Rye Youth Council board co-president, the first face to greet us, a calm voice in a bustling room. We introduced ourselves, got to know each other a bit, and, most importantly, she reassured me that I wouldn’t be the only kid there. Soon, after meeting a few more people, it was time for the program to begin.
The parents left the room and those remaining were the young facilitators and the even younger attendees, five of us in all. We started out with a Love and Kindness Meditation, an exercise that challenged us to wish for the best not only for people we cared about, but for strangers, for our enemies, and for <ourselves>. One thing that Jillian, the meditation facilitator, said that stuck with me, was to speak in the “I” rather than the “you.” For example, the positive impact of saying: “I know when I,” instead of starting a sentence with, “You know how when you”. That exercise set the precedent for the rest of the day.
In the next segment, we explored “Getting COMFY”, an exercise on openness led by the facilitator Jordan. For this part, I spoke with Brandon, one of the event organizers. We opened up about our life plans, goals, fears of rejection, and moving too fast through life to notice the milestones. Oddly enough, it was easy sharing these confidences with someone I’d never met before.
Following this, we listened to JJ, another millennial facilitator, who read his children’s book, “Land of Not”, which focused on what a person can be, not what they’re not. And we participated in exercises naming things we feared and things for which we were grateful, with facilitators Emily and Amanda, respectively.
It was crazy how we all shared the same fears, like walking into a room full of strangers, and how grateful we were for things, both big and small.
The last activity we participated in was somewhat uncomfortable — staring into another person’s eyes and telling her or him what made us feel alive. In return, that person would repeat, almost translate back, what they heard. I was paired with Jess, the Rye Youth Council youth educator, and together we identified our mutual love for connecting with people.
In closing, Beth led us in a meditation on the Village Green in front of the library. After spending so much time absorbing advice, and after all thoughts and opinions were expressed, it was safe to say everyone was mentally exhausted. The meditation gave us an opportunity to reflect on all the good this workshop did for us, as well as people outside the community. The workshop raised over $1,000 for Pencils of Promise, providing access to education for children in Guatemala, Laos, and Ghana.
Summing up the day in a few words is difficult. To understand the experience best, I encourage my peers to attend a Rye Youth Council workshop like “What Matters Most”. The freedom that comes from finding your voice, being able to share it with others, and breaking out of your comfort zone is thrilling and irreplaceable.
<The author, Yana Jayampathy, a freshman at Rye Country Day School, is a member of the Rye Youth Council Youth Advisory Board.>