When youth worker Arry Valastro said “hello” to the young guy hanging out with his friends at YSAS Fitzroy, his bottom lip started quivering. Sensing that he might want to talk away from the gaze of his peers, she invited him into another room for a private chat.
What followed was a moving, insightful and surprisingly deep conversation. The young man, whose name was Jerry, spoke about the relationships he had with his family and girlfriend, how society viewed him, and how the image he portrayed to the outside world didn’t really reflect who he was inside. Jerry cried, but Arry held back her own tears – she didn’t want to show too much emotion in case it frightened him from opening up again in the future.
As the chat drew to a close, Jerry said, “I always thought you were a nice lady because you always said hello to me when I came in.”
Three years on, Arry still remembers that statement. It taught her that sometimes small courtesies can have a big impact on the people she works with. “A lot of these young people have never had a consistent adult in their life who has treated them with common courtesy and respect,” she says. “It’s those little things that make such a huge difference.”
Now when Jerry comes into the YSAS offices, he sees Arry and says, “Hello, have you got time for a chat?”