Marches Marching Past the Point

Another weekend of marches has passed us by, and another weekend of marches marched right past the most significant challenges we as humanity face – the millions of youth and young adults who are homeless, missing and exploited, and the millions of victims of domestic violence. Every single day and night around the world, those of us who work in the field of street outreach crisis counseling, emergency youth shelters, domestic violence shelters, and violence intervention, see that every emergency youth shelter and domestic violence shelter is almost always full.

My colleagues and I are willing to walk through the broken glass. We’re willing to carry the tears and blood on our shoulders. We’re willing to have the echoes of the screams of children replay in our minds when we least expect it during moments that we have to pray through, write through, and reach out to each other to get through. We’re willing to attempt to get the youth or young adults to give us the gun, knife or box cutter, and most of the time they do, and then we transport them to safety. We’re willing to be run off the road by pimps, have guns pointed at us or put to our heads, and be shot at. We’re willing to maneuver through gunfire to get a child to safety. We’re willing to intervene and interrupt violence by breaking up fights while large groups of people just watch, instigating or use their phones to record. We’re willing to stop a young person from throwing themselves into traffic and in the process almost be killed. We’re willing to walk into an abandoned building where the smoke from crack cocaine is so dense, that our tongue immediately goes numb and we want to vomit, yet somehow we push through because we’re focused on the young person we are there to serve, so we get that young person to go outside with us, break their glass pipe and allow us to transport them to a drug rehab. We’re willing to meet a mother and her children in the middle of the night and drive them to a domestic violence shelter because that’s the only time the mother can do it without being beaten or killed by the abuser she lives with. We’re willing to go to the hospital in the middle of the night to meet and connect with the young person who was a victim of gang violence to reduce the possibilities of retaliation, thus preventing more deaths and more parents having to bury a child. We’re willing, able and have done these things and so much more, and will continue as long as God allows us to do so, because it’s not work, it’s a calling.

My colleagues and I understand that not everyone is called to do what we do. However, not everyone is called to live in the Arctic and facilitate research on climate change, but articles, quotes and memes about climate change get millions of posts, shares and views on social media and all media. Look at that in proportion to the amount of posts, shares and views regarding homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults and victims of domestic violence. The birth of a giraffe gets more attention than the homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults and victims of domestic violence. Why? Possibly because the numbers are so staggering and so overwhelming that instead of people volunteering or becoming employed with the local emergency youth shelter, domestic violence shelter, violence intervention teams, street outreach teams or search and rescue teams, it’s easier to march for a couple of hours and make sure the plastic and biodegradables are separated.

Yes, simply put, it’s easier to not be in the trenches. The work is heartbreaking, trauma-filled and exhausting. Yet, the work is also filled with the most amazing moments of miracles that you could ever possibly experience. And please tell me what challenges we as humanity face that are more important than finding, rescuing and bringing the millions of homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults, and victims of domestic violence to safety?

If any march marches past the homeless youth, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the emergency youth shelters and domestic violence shelters struggling to keep their doors open, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the hotels, houses, apartments and streets where predators are buying and selling children, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the marginalized, hungry and hurting, it marched past the point. If anyone can find a way to make time to organize, travel, attend, speak at, talk about, or write about a march, but cannot find the time to share a post about a missing child, they’ve marched way past the point.

For me it’s sad that we live in a world where quotes from politicians and celebrities capture the attention of millions and billions of people, but the 1.3 -1.7 million homeless youth in the United States, the millions of homeless youth worldwide, the 600,000 – 800,000 women, children and men bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor and commercial sex, the two million children who are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade, the 20.9 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide, and the 10 – 20 million victims of domestic violence are marched past on the streets and on social media.

Please, if you’re unwilling or unable to do anything else, just share one post a day on your social media accounts about a missing child and/or information about where victims of exploitation or abuse can call or text to get help. It can save a life. 





This Holy Instant

This Holy Instant 
(originally published in Elephant Journal)

On the mountaintop upon the altar of light he was born. Others recognized him as the love he is and the love he came from. In his innocence others were able to see their own innocence again, and recall what truly matters. He was a precious child. Wherever he was people wanted to hold him because he wasn’t heavy, he was light because he was love. When people held him they held a holy reminder of the truth of what we are.

As time went by the boy grew into a young man. In his journey from infancy to being a young man he encountered those who recognized him as the love he is. He also encountered others who saw him completely different than the love is. Those who couldn’t recognize him as the love he is gave him a bag to carry. He was instructed to use the bag in this manner: Place everything you say, do, and think that is wrong in this bag and carry it. Those who recognized him as the love he is also handed him a bag to carry with this instruction: Place everything you say, do, and think that is right in this bag and carry it.

Accepting the bags and the instructions, he went on his life journey. Every day, whether at work or play, either he or someone else placed something in each of his bags. Some days his bag of wrong was heavier than his bag of right; and other days his bag of right was much heavier than his bag of wrong. He was strong, so he easily compensated from one side to the other to walk balanced and straight in public. However, every evening in private he unpacked both bags before going to bed. As he looked through his bag of wrong he cried and condemned himself; and as he looked through his bag of right he smiled, boasted, and congratulated himself. Placing all of his rights and wrongs back in their appropriate bags he would sleep. Some nights when he forgot to place his wrongs in their appropriate bag, sleeping proved to be difficult.

Days passed, merging with weeks, blending to years, and accumulated to decades of the rights and wrongs he and others gave him to carry about himself. He began to lose his balance, even in public. Both bags were full and heavy, overflowing onto others in every interaction. Some moments his wrongs along with the inferiority and condemnation that comes with that bag spilled onto others. In other moments his rights along with a sense of superiority and self-righteous indignation that comes with that bag spilled onto others. Weary, frustrated, and lost, he decided to return to the mountain where he was born in hopes of finding himself.

Hours after sunset he finally made the seventeen inch journey from his head to his heart, and was once again upon the mountaintop where he was born. He didn’t have to light a fire, because the star that never moves from that special place illuminated the entire area with its light. His grip loosened from the heavy bags of wrong and right as the memory of who he is ran through his tears, and spilled upon the altar of light where he was born. His tears reflected the light that has always shone brightly upon the altar of his heart, cleansing it, and revealing an inscription:

In this Holy instant
Of Light and Love you were born
And Light and Love you will always be
Place your bags of rights and wrongs
On either side of me

Step back upon the altar
Where light never ceases
And allow the light of love
To dissolve the useless pieces
Pieces of rights or wrongs
Hold not one glimpse of you
Step back upon this altar
To remember all that’s true

You are not lost
You’ve just used your eyes to see
Only your bags of rights and wrongs
Exchanging holy memory for misery

You’re not in either bag
And cannot be found in one or both
No matter if you hate yourself
Or use each day to boast

Beyond failures or successes
Past confidence or guesses
Afar from gracefulness or messes
Is your true reflection – Love

Of Light and Love you were born
And Light and Love you’ll always be
Throughout your life you may come here heavy
Yet in this holy instant you are free


Dear Parents Who Threw Their Children Out onto the Streets

Dear Parents Who Threw Their Children Out onto the Streets ~

Early this morning at sunrise I saw your son. He emerged from behind a store where he’s been sleeping on the concrete. He was trembling from the morning cold, hungry and exhausted. He doesn’t sleep well outside but he does it every night. I took him to a restaurant where he warmed up from the cold and we ate breakfast together. He is a good young man who is so very talented. He’s an amazing artist with a wonderful sense of humor. I thought you might want to know that despite the beatings he suffered within your home, and you throwing him out onto the streets, day by day, he’s inching his way back to his heart and learning to accept himself as the sacred blessing, miracle, and gift he is, despite you rejecting him.

I met your daughter the other night. It was late when the police called my phone and woke me up at 1:34 am. I could hear your daughter screaming in the background as the police officer asked me to come out and see if I could help calm her and get her to a safe house. You see, your daughter was manipulated by predators who call themselves pimps. Over a period of several months these predators drugged her, violated her, and convinced her that they care about her. They sold her over and over again, and over and over again. When I arrived on the scene, I looked at your daughter and the first thing I said to her was, “You’re a sacred blessing, miracle, and gift.” I just sat there with her as she was wrapped in a blanket shivering from trauma, but she was also wrapped in love by the officers and I who continually reminded her that she’s safe now and none of what happened to her is her fault. As I drove her to a safe house she decided to tell me part of her story. She told me about when she was sexually abused at an early age and held it in for as long as she could. Then one day, with all the courage she could muster, she came to you and told you about what was done to her. To her heartbreaking surprise, you didn’t believe her, and not only did you not believe her, you demanded that she not say anything to anyone. Not long after you didn’t believe her and she stuffed the horrific truth of what happened to her way down in the depths of her being as you demanded she do, she began cutting herself, using drugs, and drinking alcohol. She told me about all the times you insisted that she is crazy and took her to and from psychiatric hospitals telling psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists, “I just don’t know what’s wrong with my daughter. We’ve done all we could and there’s nothing more we can do for her.” So the day came when you put some of her belongings in garbage bags, placed them on the porch of your home, and told her, “You just need to leave. We can’t handle you anymore.” With tears in her eyes, and begging you to listen to her, you closed the door of your home to your daughter, as the predator who violated her, the one you told her to protect by remaining silent, stood behind you smiling. But don’t you worry, despite you not believing her and telling her to suppress the truth, and then numbing the pain of what happened to her by cutting herself, and using drugs and alcohol, she’s safe now. Now, she’s in a place where she’s surrounded by people who are teaching her to break those three rules you taught her to follow for so long, the three rules that exist in all abusive relationships, the three rules of Don’t talk. Don’t tell. Don’t feel. Yes, she broke those rules and is talking, telling, and feeling with people who see, hear, and believe her as the sacred, blessing, miracle, and gift she is and always will be.

I looked for your son the other day in an abandoned building someone told me he was living in. Some other young people living in the abandoned building told me he took off a few days earlier with some pretty shady people and they hadn’t seen him since. I looked all over the place for him but just couldn’t find him. I made up some missing person flyers and posted them around. He has my number and I hope he calls me to let me know how he’s doing. I met him and talked with him many times in a park where he was living. I even had a surprise birthday party for him at the park. It was just the two of us, but of course he talked about some of the birthdays he remembered having with you as a child. He said the last one was when he was twelve years old. He shed some tears, but was extremely grateful to have a birthday celebration with cake, ice cream, and a birthday song. He got a new pair of pants and a shirt. He put the new shirt on right away and as he did, he told me to look at his back. The gashes in his back from when you beat him with a horsewhip have healed but the scars are deep and permanent, like the wounds you left upon his heart. Of course the police and CPS got involved, but because of your connections, nothing ever happened, other than you kicking him out onto the streets because you have a business and a reputation to uphold. I reminded him that it is possible for us to count our scars as the number of times we’ve been healed, not wounded, but I’m not sure when he’ll be able to do that. Don’t worry, we’ll keep looking for him, and when we find him, we’ll continue to provide all the love and support he allows us to give him.

I went to your daughter’s high school graduation. You weren’t there, even though she sent you and invitation. A few years ago you got remarried and have a new wife who your daughter accepted, respected and adored. But your new wife doesn’t like your daughter and didn’t want her around. Eventually, your wife told you that you had to choose between your daughter and her and her biological children. You chose your wife and her biological children over your daughter, threw your daughter and her belongings outside, and locked the door. Not too long after that is when I met your daughter. I got a call about an amazing senior in high school, who, even though she was homeless, didn’t miss a day of school, and continued to make all A’s and B’s. I helped her find a safe place to live, get a job, and provided food, clothes, and support as she needed. Man, she’s smart. She just started her second year of college and is in the process of becoming a counselor to help young people. She says that her dream of becoming a counselor is because she knows from her own experience how important it is to have stability and support in this life, and she wants to be that stability and support for others. She says that you’re a great dad to your new wife’s children, though, and that you went to all of their graduations.

I’ve met so many of your sons and daughters. Each of them has the resiliency of a true warrior, because they are warriors. Every day and night, they maneuver through predators, hunger, hopelessness, alleys, streets, woods, parks, and abandoned buildings. They maneuver through stigmas, judgments, and labels placed upon them by people who couldn’t survive a day in their lives. They’ve been through and maneuver through so much, and emerge day by day, night by night, a little closer to their own hearts, holding on to their divine vision, mission, and purpose that God has endowed them with. They’re so quick to share and help others in need with a deep, true compassion I am blessed to witness, a compassion that’s seldom given to them, but one they’re so willing to give. Despite the broken hearts, broken dreams, and broken glass they’ve walked through, they’re putting the pieces back together, walking back to their beautiful, courageous hearts, and remembering that they are sacred blessings, miracles, and gifts.

You taught them one thing, you taught them how not to be, which is why they’re some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.