In a small group I was leading recently, I had a collection of street youth together talking about how they had experienced coming to a church which offers them fellowship, food, and rest each Wednesday evening. There were nine or ten in the room and we were very very relaxed. The conversation wandered as I probed their thoughts and reactions to the evening with open-ended questions and allowed them to respond to one another.
One youth, from the east coast, said, "I'm considering going back home. I know I'm going to eventually. I'm just not ready yet." This youth has farming roots and will probably return to them. He currently travels the country and meets people. He has developed substance abuse issues, but he's not permanently trapped by them.
Another youth said, "I would never go home. Me and my dad are not good for each other. We'd start going at it all over again. We'd yell at each other. We shove each other. We'd wrestle each other. He'd hit me. I'd hit him. No…I'll stay out here." This youth is new to the street. He suffered a loss of a dear family member in the last year. His family, including younger siblings, is broken apart. He is learning survival skills of the street fast.
Another youth said, "I've never had a home in my life. If I had one, I'd go home to it. I'm an orphan. I was in foster home after foster home. I was so much trouble that none of them want me back. I can't imagine what it's like to have a home at all. It just blows my mind." This youth also has many substance abuse issues, although he also is not trapped in addiction yet, either.
I was so struck by their different views of home and what constrast there is from person to person. Like everyone, each of these street youth is a different and unique individual. Each of their stories is unique. What they each need is different. What SYM offers each is to simply be alongside them in the home they've got for now–the street–with love, compasion, understanding, and grace. How we all need these things! We do little things to make the street more tolerable and to remind them that their path from the past into the future needn't be on the street forever.
May love, compassion and grace, as well as all the little things we also need be abundant for you this Thanksgiving season. May we all remember that we're unique, every single one, and yet part of the same family of God. We are His, and He has every single one of us.