Beyond the Youth

Working on some art

I don’t know what it’s like to have a child of my own, especially one who is facing struggles I have never personally dealt with. I imagine worry, stress, fear, confusion and potentially desperation are words to describe the emotions that come with it. Only those of you who have your own children may understand. I see the pain of youth, deep and dark. Some of those youth I see or speak to on a daily basis. I am with them in the mess of their lives.

Yes, I love each of the youth I work with but I still can’t understand the feeling of having responsibility for a child who can’t get out of bed; who wont eat; who cries themselves to sleep every night. The things that happen, the choices they make, it just doesn’t always make sense but haven’t we all been there. For some of us, we’re even in it right now.

You may be asking why I’m going on about this idea. It’s because I want you to see a side of youth work that is unexpected and profound. It’s when the parents just need someone to talk to, when they need someone to hear their concerns, their fears and their dreams for their children. Lately I have had the privilege of speaking with several parents. I had a conversation with a father about his daughter. She hadn’t been eating and hates how she looks. I just told her father that they (him and his wife) weren’t alone, their daughter had talk to me about her struggle and that I too was walking along side her in this. He looked at me solemnly and thanked me, all he wanted was for his little girl to feel good in her own skin and he wasn’t sure how to help her. But he was relieved in part that this wasn’t all on him and his wife.

I spoke with another parent this week when I dropped a student off at their house. Their mom came out to speak with me and, as she discussed with me how her child had been lately, she looked at me and said “I just want her to be happy”. Tears rolled down her face. She just didn’t know how to help her child anymore. She told me she was thankful that myself and my teammates were such a huge help in her child’s life. That she knew even though her child wouldn’t talked to her, at least they were talking to responsible, loving people.

These moments say to me that we really can’t do life alone, that we were never meant to. That I get to be a part of these parents journey’s in raising their children, that I get to be a safe place for their cherished child to express themselves, that I get to be there with them, as youth and parents. That in all of this, my work is not just for the youth as individuals but also for strengthening the families as a whole.

I wrote this quote and it seems fitting:

The cross is a call to life that’s reached the scariest unknown and comes back from it with hope.

- Rachel Tapp


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