Overcoming Fear and Obstacles

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of speaking in front of a big group of people. I would panic and feel so self-conscious. My palms would sweat and my heart would beat so fast – to the point I had to listen closely because it was so fast I couldn’t hear the pitter-patter at all.  This fear was magnified at the age of 10 when my family immigrated to the U.S. and I had to learn to speak English.

The truth is, most children are afraid something. Often times the first step to overcome a fear or obstacle is to face it in a safe setting with people you trust. This can help you realize you have what it takes to overcome it.

Recently, the Native American kids we work with at St. Joseph’s Indian School did just that! We were on duty in the Afra Home with the Lakota girls (grades 1-3) and Dave, our fellow houseparent, invited us to be a part of his kid-friendly version of “Fear Factor”.  Does the title make it sound dangerous? I thought so too at first.

About 17 boys and girls were split into teams of two and faced a series of secret challenges. After finding out what a particular challenge entailed, each team could make a decision to either pass or try. The amount of points they could earn depended on whether they performed a partial or full completion of the challenge.  The teams with the most points could win first or second place. There were also special awards for Best Heart and Best Sportsmanship. That way, their perseverance and attitude while either trying a challenge or cheering for other teams might qualify them to win a prize.

It sounded like fun and the girls were up for it.  I joked that if all the girls had nightmares I was going to come and wake Jachin up so he could help me comfort them. To Dave’s credit, this activity was so awesome that I not-so-secretly wished it had been my idea. Haha. It was so successful!

Some of the challenges included:

Fear the Peer-Teams had to face their fear by choosing to sing a song, tell a story, dance, or read a poem in front of their peers. They could give a speech, teach a lesson, come up with a skit, or do pretty much anything else that would require them to do it in front of our crowd. We had some time to brain storm and then the show began. I do have to make a special shout out to my really nice husband, Jachin. In real life, he HATES to dance with a passion, but one of our boys said he would only do it if Jachin did it with him. I have never seen him dance like that before. What a trooper!

Fear the Dark- Each person could choose to sit in a dark room alone for 60 seconds to get points of their team. If they indicated they wanted to come out, we would immediately open the door.

Fear the Burn- Challengers would hang from the monkey bars and endure the burn of their muscles for as long as possible.

Fear the Food- Teams could eat “Monster Guts” and drink “Lizard Pee.” Obviously, we didn’t feed them the real stuff. There were no monsters around.  : )

Here’s a video of some of our day to prove it!

Our “Fear the Peer” activity reminded me of my own fears. It reminded me that it took one person to make me believe I could actually try to stand in front of my class without freezing or feeling like I could burst into tears. That person was my 6th grade Language Arts teacher. That year, I slowly improved because of her. I remember our final project was a speech.  I did okay. After that, she signed me up for a county-wide speech competition. The speech had to be about the meaning of optimism.  With a lot of practice, I went on to win second place overall. I couldn’t believe it!

It took a few other people to help me grow and polish the bit of skill I had. In high school, it was a retired lawyer who volunteered with youth in after school activities. He not only convinced me that I was a good public speaker, but he helped me believe I could be anything I wanted in life. While in college, it was a professor; he helped and encouraged me to further my skills by getting rid of verbal pauses such as “um” and “like” to hide my nervousness while I spoke.

Although their presence in my life was brief, those are a few of the people I can thank for being able to do the things I do today. Just yesterday, I had to do a presentation for a Staff Development Meeting. Even after all these years, their faces and names came to mind.

I say all that to say the following:

I believe in the combined power of relationships, encouragement, trusting God, resilience, and hard work. This power can help people overcome fears and obstacles.  I hope every child can experience it at least once in their lifetime. I also wish all adults could play a role in that powerful combination for a child at least once in their lifetime.

Did you ever experience that power as a child? Have you played a role in empowering a child? I’d love to hear your story and our kids would too!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

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