I recently spend time with “Mark.” He is older than most of the people I work with–he’s about 36. However, he is a street youth never the less. “Street Youth” is a culture and not an age.

Mark only shows up about once a month or so. He tries to stay away from the Drag because he knows that the Drag is trouble for him. You see–Mark is addicted to heroine. He is currently taking methadone to get off heroine. This is a terribly difficult path. Methadone has all kinds of side effects that are tough all on their own. Coming to the drag temps Mark to partake in other things that might dull the pain of treatment. He usually resists.
Today, Mark looked a little different. I asked, “How are you?” He replied, “OK… I guess. Do you really want to know?” I said, “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to know. What’s up, dude?” I handed him a sandwich and tried to get him to sit down on a rock with him. He resisted. So I stood with him on the sidewalk.
Mark said, “I’ve not seen you in a while because I try to stay away from here. But I’m not coping very well today so I decided to come down. I’m going in for treatment next week. ” I didn’t know what he was talking about so I asked more. “I’ve been tapering down on methadone for a year now. I’m down to the last bit. Now I have to give that up next week.” His eyes welled up with wetness. I said, “That must be scary,” He just replied, “Yes.” His face said everything. He was frightened to death.
I asked, “What type of treat plan are you pursuing. Is it 12 steps based or something else.” “It’s twelve steps.” “So the first step involves a higher power. Where are you on that?” I asked. “I’m OK. I believe there is a God… my version of God anyway.” I replied, “That is a good start. It may eventually matter that you sort out more than that, but let’s start there. My God and probably your God is really big. He’s big enough to help you through this tough time. He probably already is taking care of some things that you’re going to need.” Mark said, “That kinds of scares me… like I don’t have choice.” I answered, “Not at all. You have choice. But God knows you so well he knows what you’ll probably do. You probably have friend you know so well you can predict their behavior. But there are always moments where they and we surprise each other. We have choice.” “OK… I can sort of understand that,” replied Mark.
“More than a God who knows us, we also have a God who knows what it’s like. He understands temptation. He understand pain. He understands disappointment. He understands fear. You can tell him about that. Do you want to pray together now?” “No… I’m not comfortable with that,” said Mark.
“OK. No problem. We can do it a different time. You understand that you can talk to God any way you need. You can be mad at Him or people and tell him about it. You can be scared and tell him. You can tell him anything.”
I continued, “Let’s try something. God. We want to have peace about what’s going to happen next week. Mark is scared. Mark wants to make changes in his life and wants them to go well. Send your peace to Mark.” We stood in silence for a minute. Mark said, “I do feel better.” I said, “We just prayed. Remember that prayer can look like anything. There are no rules. There is no right place. It’s just you and God talking.” Mark said, “I need to remember that. I tend to get all caught up in legal rules and stuff. It turns me off and away from religion. I just want to be authentic.”
I talked more with Mark that night. He’s a typical street youth. He left his home before age 18. His home life was poor. He’s burned all the bridges to his family. He’s been living on the street on and off for 18 years. He got addicted to heroine and has been using for 18 years. He has a long journey ahead of him. I pray he will have lots of support and friends along the way. I pray that he will be able to talk with God every single day of that journey. I pray he will find how to relate authentically all the time to his creator. And may we all find the same thing. Amen.

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