There are many moments in life which remind me of both my fragility and my resources; May 18th was one of those. My husband Kenny and two children Kristen and Ben and I headed to the park just minutes from our house so that they could fish and I could jog. Even though they throw back the fish they catch, there's something about the smell and slim that makes me slither on a "great" night of fishing, so jogging works out a bit better for me. After they were settled on the lake's bank, I left my cell phone and water bottle to begin my slow grueling run, while still questioning whether the smell of fish was as bad as the humidity and hills that lay ahead. Having not consistently jogged in ten years, I am finding that jogging isn't nearly as fun as I remembered it being, nor is my discipline or ambition for the hills as keen as it was then!
Running towards my final stretch, I was finally enjoying the sunset and thoughts of how good I would feel AFTER this was over! Given that my sense of direction is questioned even in malls and parking lots, I felt a little apprehensive, yet not panicked, when I reached the spot my family was fishing in...or was it THIS spot? With no family or truck in sight, I kept looking and yes, still running.
"Where did THEY go?" At this point, I was mildly annoyed, yet I felt certain they had simply moved to "their OTHER favorite fishing spot." Jogging towards it, I realized I was wrong. Now, I was inwardly hissing and spitting and outwardly panting as they had taken my water with them. Running aimlessly through Chester Frost Park, I began my pity party regarding the woes of my abandonment while "worry thoughts" for them danced in my head: "What if something happened to them? What if Ben was balancing on a rock and had been badly cut, etc.?" After dismissing those imaginations, my anger seethed as I thought, "This better not be one of Kenny's pranks because THIS is really not funny and something BETTER have happened to cause them to leave ME!" The more I circled the park looking for them, the more dramatic my woes became until I remembered I was only 5 minutes by car and 5 hills (one of them steep) away from home. So, I began to run home with a mix of anger and worry floating through my head.
As I ran, suddenly my self-absorbed fascination with my plot lifted and faces of young people flooded my mind. Faces like Tyra's, whose mother abandoned her the night before she arrived at the group home I was working at in 1995; and Travis' who shared in our Life On Point group that his dad had moved to Chicago promising to pick him up for summer vacation, yet five summers later, he still hadn't; and Rachel, who told one of our Think educators that she had been sold into prostitution to support her mother's drug habit. I thought of my friend's stories about rescuing children who had been snatched from their homes and later sold into the sex trade; while many had been rescued, they remained imprisoned in nightmares and fears. I thought about the day I asked one of my Life groups how many of them had lost a parent due to death, abandonment, incarceration, or addiction and three quarters of the members in each of three groups raised their hands.
And suddenly, I heard little laughing voices pulling up behind me and MY world was "right again." THEY had returned for me. Regressing back into my self absorption, I demanded to know where they had been. With smiling faces, they chattered about moving to "another fishing spot" that they felt certain I would run past, and then of growing a little concerned about me as it grew darker. "Ahhh"...I felt loved again....and relieved that none of MY tragic plots had come to fruition.
Later that evening as I turned out the lights, I remembered THE FACES. The reality for Tyra, Travis, Rachel, and myriads of children taken or abandoned daily, the world will never be the same and HOME is either impossible to find or unsafe. The world for them is deeply marred with heartache, loneliness, abuse, and despair. Who will come for them? Who will take them HOME? We live in a community in which schools, houses of worship, organizations, and families are building blocks of support around our children, but sadly, we often work in silos. As we work to construct these supports, a great evil rips many of them apart. On Point and many of our partners are asking, "What would happen if we put aside our prejudices, agendas, personal ambitions, and preferences and joined TOGETHER to help every child find "a" HOME or feelings of HOME in each place they stand, each minute of the day. This is a lofty goal, so let's make it actionable, how can I, right now, link arms with other safe adults, and help a child nearby feel safe, loved, and wanted? We mustn't stop until every child in our little corner of the world finds HOME and is insulated by blocks of support, and as that happens, we must rally to help children across the globe find HOME.
To learn more about the building blocks which support youth and ideas for building support, visit www.search-institute.org
If you would like to join us in constructing supports and helping youth find HOME, please camp out on our website, call our office, send a donation, or offer to volunteer!
Our youth need you!