Non-Parental Adult: Why I Spend 7hrs/week for Youngster Community

Vinka Maharani
4 min readNov 21, 2020
Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

I have an exciting story about my grandma. She has some enamel plates ready in her kitchen, not made of glass like the others. These are specials because it’s only used for giving the stranger person who stopped by and asking for food. It was wartime and food was scarce. There’s no beggar asking for money, only food & drink. My grandma & grandpa has an allotment so at least they could eat daily from the vegetables they planted. My grandma almost never refused any people who asked for food. Her reasoning is simple: “My children will be roaming far from home. I hope later they would have people who keep them from starving, just like I did.” This principle became a passed down story. Her spirit to pay it forward was my inspiration to do the same in a different context.

It started in August this year when I joined a community where the average age is 24–25 years old, 7 years younger than me. The name is Negeri Pembelajar or loosely translated as The Country of Learners. It was awkward at the beginning. I just want to join to connect to new people, to have some social interactions in the middle of pandemic time. I’m not sure what I’m doing there so I try to listen more.

The more I listened the more I interested. Some of them said they have a quarter-life crisis. Some of them feel unseen. After listening for a while, I decided to give myself a role as “Non-Parental Adult” friend and spare my time for the community. What is Non-Parental Adult? Actually, this is a term for an adult who wants to make a difference in the life of a child or adolescent. Well, 24–25 years old is definitely an adult and not a child nor adolescent. But until now I can’t find the term as near as this. I’m not comfortable to put myself as a mentor because for me it needs some expertise and expected to give advice. What I want to do is just listen and be an equal friend with them.

Why, though? It brought my memory to my teenage time. I’ve already lived by myself since I was in high school. I want to go to a particular school which has acceleration class in it. The school is out of town, 2 hours by car, so it’s impossible to commute from my parent’s home. If I reflected back, it’s a quite crazy ride. The things that I’m grateful for until now, I met kind-hearted adults who helped me going through the tough teenage and then college time. It was my school security who always listened to my rants, my friend’s parents who treat me dinner from time to time, the busboy who let everyone sit anywhere but the seat beside me so I could sleep comfortably in the journey or the policeman who gave me drink when I cried after my wallet lost. These people didn’t do the grand deed. They did little kindness, and it saved my belief that the world is kind & bearable enough in my teenage eyes. Because of them, I know it’s okay to be not okay and I would have a person to turn to in my vulnerable time.

I mentioned my intention clear to the member of the community. I want them to know that they have a person that will be there to listen genuinely. I’m not promising anything than fresh ears. I’m really happy that it reciprocated. Some was reaching out to ask perspectives. Some chatted to share their stories. Some became the creative partners I never knew needed. Some even shared their cries and their vulnerable side with me. Until now, it still fascinates me how strangers could listen to each other at another end of the world.

While the listening process was going on, I also learned more about listening. Doing it attentively and being present to the conversation is truly powerful. I learned to exercise my empathy, effort, attention consciously. It taught me to be neutral, non-judgmental and also gives me more standpoint about patience. All of them is the subject that I still need to grasp.

Why the role is important to me? Because I have a daughter too. I could feel the same as my grandma felt. There will be a time when I couldn’t protect my daughter with my own hands. She’ll be wandering in this vast world. It will be great if she would meet people who keep her safe and believe in the world, just like I received.

With the same mindset, I committed to continue doing this. I don’t know how the practice will bring me in the future. I only hope, one day, these youngsters will be at their turn: being an adult who will bring one kindness at a time.

The speaker & committee of World Mental Health Day 2020 event in Negeri Pembelajar