Nostagia


This post comes from our fall intern, Jessi. She has completed her internship with us and we greatly enjoyed her time with us. This piece seems retrospective in some ways, touching on some very complex ideas that are a reality of our daily work at SYM. We believe that God has the power to fully restore our street-dependent young clients. It can taken years, maybe even the better part of two decades, but we see it happen all the time! Please enjoy Jessi's commentary:

A youth recently ventured to off to a small house church unaccompanied by other street youths. As he returned, I asked him how it was for him: Uncomfortable? Overwhelming? Good? Bad? He mentioned how it was a very rare encounter because he actually felt at peace and comfortable being around “normal people.” It was not uncomfortable nor was it overwhelming for him. However, he could not rest upon whether the experience was good or bad. Rather in response to that question he answered, “It was mostly just nostalgic.” Miss college student (i.e. me) had to ask what exactly he meant by that. The way he explained it made me think it was like a dream or déjà vu for him. He said it reminded him of what he used to have, who he used to be, the life he used to be a part of, and what it was like to be “normal.”

With the youth’s experience and the word “nostalgia” still on my mind later that evening, I looked up the exact meaning in the dictionary. Here is what I found: nostalgia is “yearning for the past; a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”

It is so easy for a youth to get caught up in street life and even to convince themselves that the street is where they want to be and that it is not so bad. This is a straight up lie of Satan. You can ask many youths and they will tell you that they chose and like the street. There is some truth to that. Yes, there are aspects of the street that are appealing – the adventure, freedom, lack of what society calls responsibility, etc; and yes, some of the choices they make keep them on the street. However, there is a deeper reality to the reason they initially became street dependent. It is this reality, this separation from “normalcy,” family, happiness, society, etc and the memory of what used to be (despite the fact that what used to be may not have been necessarily a physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually healthy place to be) that keeps them nostalgic and possibly even hopeful.

Still, this nostalgia is a complex thing. For, as previously mentioned, a youth’s past “normal” life may not have been healthy; it may have consisted of abused, neglect, and extreme crisis. Therefore, what keeps one youth hopeful may be what keeps another bound to the street that separates them from that pain. As someone who is part of the street youths’ lives, it becomes an even more complicated thing to figure out how to help the youth to stay separated from the hurt of the past and at the same time to separate them from the street that continues to hurt them today.

Complexity continues to arise as a youth longs for who they used to be over who they currently are. Although who they used to be may be housed up, in relationship with family, and a part of society, this person of the past is possibly just as broken, self-destructive, and desperate as the street person is today. What we need to help the youth realize is that who they used to be and who they are today are not the only two options for the future. New constructive behaviors, healed relationships, brighter dreams, stability, and abundant life are all realistic options for the future. Nostalgia may not be a bad thing; what would it look like, though, if a youth began to think in terms of a fully restored future self rather than nostalgia? 

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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