Dear Christian who works with young people,
‘I always wanted to be someone better the next day than I was the day before’ the late Sidney Poitier, Actor.
I was arrested by this quote as I like many in the black community and beyond mourned for an icon in the world of acting who died at the start of this year. Before Denzel Washington, there was Sidney Poitier born of Bahamian parents on US soil in a time prior to civil rights and long before Black Lives Matter.
If you were a certain age you would know this actor and all that he presented was the best of ourselves as black people when there was a time of few like him on our screens. His character roles were of strength, dignity and competence rather than stereotypical tropes of a failed humanity often portrayed. He understood what his role in the imagination to millions were and all that this brought with it.
The quote above is a challenge that asks me how we might be our better selves not just for us which is important, but what does that look like for the young people that we serve in whatever context that we find ourselves in. Who were we that day before? Where might transformation and growth have taken place in our lives and how might we mark those ‘better day’ moments beyond those of failure and regret.
Sidney Poitier was a mentor and coach to many African American actors and Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey and many others testify to this. The role of you as a Christian working with young people draws upon mentoring and coaching moments that are significant for many young persons in rural, suburban, coastal and of course concrete urban contexts.
I would love you in this next year to explore your role as mentor and coach as a development for your experience of life and practice. What might this look like for you embarking on this course and connecting to people who might accompany? What might this form of development look like in the experience of the young people in your influence/proximity? What might this look like for young people to experience this way of being?
As a priest-leader, I am transitioning to learning a different perspective where there are many calls on me, especially around perceptions and expectations. First and foremost I am called to follow Jesus Christ, the ultimate coach and mentor who demonstrated this time and again in the Gospels with those who could look forward to a better day after some tragic moments. You have that privilege to journey with those near or in your care.
Finally, as I reflect on Sidney’s words, may I signpost you to where things start and end for those of us who name ourselves Christians. Our first calling is to follow Christ in Mark 1 verse 17 and create more followers. With Christ, we can be better and so there is hope for the young people to also be better through our example and their own experience of a better life with Christ.
Just like Sidney did for a Denzel, we can do it also for those in our care and ourselves, with the help of Christ.
Rev Dean Pusey
Dean was ordained in July 2021 and is serving currently in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Formerly the Diocesan Youth Adviser for St Albans and Southwark for 15 years in total, Dean has worked with and alongside young people and those supporting them in urban, suburban and rural areas.
People, Soul Music, Current Affairs and Food are his key interest areas. Most of all a relationship with Christ of over 40 years.