Crossing her arms and ducking her head. That was her “go to” move. Especially when I came around. And the silence. The silence was brutal. Usually I can get to any kid in just a matter of time. Not this one. She is not letting me in. I can go by the room and ask her to take a walk with me. She will walk. But she ain’t talking.

I don't know how many times we have made the long walk from her classroom to my office together. Me talking. Asking questions. No response. We get to the office. Sit down. No response. Knees up in the chair. I have never seen anyone so creative with using their own body to create barriers. She’s good.

We played this game all year. Literally...all year. Brutal. I don’t know how to make progress with her. Just at the point when I am about to give up, I decided to invite her to LEAP Academy. It’s a summer leadership program my wife started. Our school is preparing to host it for the first year. The goal...developing character and building relationships with kids that present a little extra challenge. Crossed arms is the perfect candidate.

Problem is...I think she hates school. No way she comes up here in the summer to spend two more weeks with us. I would be shocked if she agreed. Or maybe she would just because it’s a better offer than being at home.

I call mom. We talk about the program. She commited. I am super pumped. I love a good challenge.

Two weeks go by. It’s the last day of Leadership Camp. The arms have been crossed, but not near as much as they used too. I even saw some smiles over the last few days. That wall is coming down. It just took a whole lot of banging on.

You know that stage where you have really been digging in, pouring in, investing in that kid and trying to build a relationship and you think maybe they are warming up, but you haven’t really gotten in the door yet? You are still just trying to figure it out.

That’s where we were. I am still waiting for the sign that she trusts me. She cares. She wants more for her life and she understands that we actually want what’s best for her to. I am still waiting for that moment when she “buys in.” When she shows us that she knows we care and she appreciates it.

I am standing and watching the kids play as we bring camp to a close. I feel someone jump on my back. Pushes me forward a step until I catch my balance. I know that feeling. It makes me smile. I turn around and there she is, laughing at her catching me off guard, bright-eyed, excited about the future. Arms at her side. It’s the look of a child. And it’s the first time I have seen her wear it.

I think she figured it out. I think the Program accomplished its goal. That’s a LEAP. A huge LEAP. In a moment, a future just got a lot brighter. I bet those arms are crossed a whole lot less next year.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Adam Walker