Archive for July, 2009

July 31, 2009

Updated "Get unBored" Pocket Book

The August edition of Get unBored pocket book of free and safe things to do in Austin is available for download and printing. This little book gives ideas for street youth (and all youth) of things to do in Austin that are absolutely free. It lists music, movies, swimming, parks, museums, and libraries.

July 16, 2009

An end to anger

I was speaking about the ministry with someone interested the other day. She asked if I had success stories. I asked what she meant and she said, “You know… people who get off the street.” Yes, street youth often get off the street. However, it is rare for me to hear from them since one of the things that almost always happens is that they move away from the UT Drag area to someplace more wholesome for them.

However, recently a client name “Adam” returned after more than a year absence. It took me about 30 minutes to even remember his name although I recognized his face right away. It was a pleasure to talk with him and reconnect.
He enlisted in one of the armed forces branches and went through a year of training. He proudly showed me his state ID, his military ID, and his community college ID. He’s been taking advantage of military tuition credit to work on a college degree also! Wow!
Adam now has a few months off before deployment. He’s not looking forward to deployment but recognizes it as part of the deal he made. The armed services have invested heavily in him, giving him training, a monthly salary, education credits, and even a large bonus.
It was so wonderful to hear Adam describe getting a short term lease in Austin for his stay and seeing him use his contacted cell phone (a fancy one) to get calls from his new friends.
I discussed how he should watch out for his money, especially the bonus money. We looked up CD rates and discussed strategies for keeping part of it put away for the future and only using part of it for now. He was so at home with these ideas. Much has changed!
I finally asked him what the armed forces has done for him that mattered most. He told me that he has finally let go of the anger in his life! Adam did plenty of bad things while on the street but it all seemed to be driven by anger. During training, he had to get used to people telling him what to do and develop a healthy way of responding to discipline. “At first, I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do. But they really beat the anger out of me… not really beat me… but they took it out of me.”
It was so good to see a client who has definitely made some tough decisions for his life, who has stepped up to the honor and sacrifice of serving our country, and who returned to share the joy of an improving life with people who helped him along the way!
July 8, 2009

Selfless High

I want to relate to you what a client named “Jack” shared at a recent Bible study. This is a time when the street folks can come inside for two hours from the 100+ heat into the air conditioning of a room at a local church. We begin with an ice breaker, but Jack was so excited that he wanted to share something else.

“I was waiting at the Salvation Army to get to eat at 4:00. There were a lot of people waiting with me. I don’t usually talk much because some of those people are crazy and some of them just don’t know when to be quiet. However, this one old lady kept getting my attention and kept talking to me. She had white hair and walked with a cane. She kept asking if anyone would help her pick up her medication from a Walgreen’s on Riverside. Eventually I said I would.”
Jack is typical, although I loathe to describe any of the human clients of Street Youth Ministry with that word, of street dependent folks I serve. He’s quite old for my group but he fits in. He has a drug use background. He has 10 year old felony convictions associated with that way of life. He left that way of life behind 4 years ago, although he can’t seem to get off the streets. Jack always looks clean and is always polite. He reads his Bible regularly. He battles depression and recently fell off the wagon. That scared him so much he hasn’t used drugs a second time but it was a terrible reminder that he is still recovering.
“We sat together at the Salvation Army meal. She talked constantly but it turns out she was funny and told very good stories. I enjoyed talking with her. Then we went to get her medicines. We rode the bus together and I helped her cross the highway and several busy streets to get to the store that had her medicines. Then I told her about a shelter for women that might take her in for the night and put her on a bus going that direction.”
“It just felt good. So good to be doing something selfless. I have received so much help over the years and I wasn’t worthy of it. To be doing something to give back just felt so good.”
I told Jack that it sounded to me like he had a natural high after doing this. Could he relate to this? “Yeah, it seemed like that. But when I did drugs–when I do drugs–I get high but it also feels like a little piece of me goes away. A chunk of who I am dies and falls away each time I do drugs.” Jack motioned with his hands as a fist sized part of his head breaks off and fall away to the ground and shatters.
“But when I was helping her, the high I felt seemed to put something back inside me. It was as if a little piece of me was restored. A little part of me came back. I really liked that.”
Everyone in the room agreed that this happens but none could articulate it as clearly as Jack. It was a wonderful and authentic moment that I will cherish for a long while.
July 5, 2009

Fun Free Things to do in Austin

This week I’m releasing a little booklet that I have made that lists free and safe activities to do in Austin. I made this to help out my street youth friends, but I think it is just as useful to all my readers and friends in Austin. I call it “Get unBored!”

Also, it uses a simple technique to make an 8 page sturdy booklet form a single piece of paper. You make one cut and fold it up–very easy. I use this format in my ministry all the time to help people make day planners, address books, wish lists, budgets, etc.
Download the July edition of “Get unBored” and make yours. I’d love to get feedback on other things to include. Please leave your comments and suggestions for August on the comment page. The things listed must be completely free and available to the public as well as be reasonably safe. It is OK if a donation is requested, but it cannot be mandatory. (This is the case for a couple of museums listed.)
July 3, 2009

Freedom on the street

This is Independence weekend. I do not mean to make light of this important holiday in any way. However, as I thought back about a conversation with a young man yesterday, this blog formed to share with you:

Joey is 22 years old. He lives on the street right now, although he often sleeps on someone’s couch. He gets things to eat from food pantry’s as often as he can and gets a hot meal twice a week from a local service that specializes in helping young street dependent people. He is appreciative.
Joey has a mental disorder that came upon him when we was in his early teens. This is a time when most youth expect to start becoming independent and exploring what the world will be for them, but for Joey it became a terrible time of despair. It took years for doctors to understand Joey’s condition. During that time, Joey had felt freedom at all.
Joey was in the custody of the state almost all his life. I do not know why. The doctors and caregivers I’m sure gave him the best care they could. Joey described being over medicated and feeling dead but being alive. Joey described being under medicated and feeling simply insane and not being able to do anything about it. It has taken Joey almost 10 years to learn how he needs to feel to be just right and as normal as possible. He respects his medications and takes them carefully.
Joey lived in the foster care system until he was 18. And then he accepted continuing care in some form or another until recently. As he matured and gained balance in his life, he found that he really needed to experience freedom and being on his own. That has meant sacrifices… hard sacrifices. He has given up everything he once owned. His possessions fit in a backpack. His meals come from the nest charitable source. His bed from the next friend to take him in. He endures this because he knows it is important to get to know himself and his own capabilities. He didn’t plan to be on the street, but he found that he simply didn’t have the means to live anywhere else.
Joey is also taking important and wise steps for the longer term. He is applying for government benefits because he has come to understand it is very unlikely he can ever hold a job. Until it comes, he waits.
The thing Joey really wants to experience in his new freedom is the ability to date. He is not looking for a one night stand or just a good time. He is looking for his perfect match… someone to love and care for all his days. He finds it very hard to date while being street dependent, and he understands why women are reluctant to go out with someone who has no means at all.
Joey remains strong in his faith. He knows that God has a plan for him. He believes resolutely that God has created a partner for him, one who will walk alongside him all his life. One whom he can love even as his own self.
I applaud Joey for exploring and understanding his freedom. I applaud him for the courage to face who he is and explore that. It very clearly means personal sacrifice for him. None of us are independent — in fact we are possibly more directly dependent on one another in this time and age than any other in the past. (Check how the poor and fraudulent behavior of a few effects all of us in this recession if you doubt it.) However, we enjoy a condition that we call freedom which gives us safety and peace in our interdependence. I wish that for all of you and for Joey. God bless!