“I firmly believe that Youth Unlimited saved ____’s life this past year.”
The world can be a dark, sad and isolating place. This summer, our team felt the blow of a life lost too soon. A young man, (kid, really), sucked into peer pressure, wanting to fit in, and tragically losing his life to an overdose. A young man who had so much life ahead of him. A young man who walked the halls of Walnut Grove Secondary School. Who rubbed shoulders with our staff. He was seen, he was known, yet he felt…unseen…unknown.
This is the story for so many youth. They want desperately to fit in and cry out in different ways to be seen. For some that’s acting out, for others that’s threats, for others that’s bullying and for others, that’s becoming a ‘yes man’, agreeing to anything for the sake of just a bit of recognition.
In the wake of this tragedy, our team received an email from a parent who felt the blows of this event. Not necessarily because she personally knew the student who had died, but because she felt the parallels of this student’s story to her own son’s story. She knew that had it not been for certain intervention in her son’s life, that the news story from this summer could have been her own son. And she felt it important to give some of that credit to us.
You see, Youth Work can seem just like ‘fun’ from the outside. A lot of the foundation to a relationship is built through slurpee runs, go-karting, mini-golfing, fast food eating, but below the surface, these ‘fun’ moments are paving the way to deep connection and relationship. By being willing to show up and enter into these young people’s lives, our team is showing these student’s how important each of them are. That they are worth making plans with. That they are worth spending money on. That they are worth sharing laughs with. It is challenging (yes, donut eating can be challenging) because at times, it may feel like these ‘fun’ moments are going nowhere. But then we get emails like this. Emails that reassure us that our time is not wasted, that our energy has gone to good use, that walls are being broken down and lives are being told that they are meaningful. That they are worth loving.
I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I think about the life lost and the family that grieves the son that is now gone. But it gives me a renewed sense of purpose in what I do. I may not work with youth directly, but I support those who do and by freeing up my coworkers to do more youth work, more lives are being touched and shown love and more students are hearing the words ‘you are enough’.