Many say Love is blind
But this isn’t fair
Because Love is the only One
After more than a few injuries and too many 15-20 hour work days to count facilitating interventions in my full time job as street outreach crisis counselor, someone asked me why I put all of myself into the full time work we do with the youth and young adults we serve. Well …
Because it’s not work or a job, it’s a calling. Truly a calling from God. There were many situations that called me to this work, most of them were extremely challenging situations that God used to cultivate deeper love, respect, honor and compassion. One of many experiences was when I was homeless and walking through a neighborhood during the Christmas holidays in Michigan.
I was wandering around with no particular destination other than wanting to get to a 24 hour store or restaurant where I could warm up and take a nap. It was snowing and as I was walking through a neighborhood I looked across the street and saw a house with a huge window, and through that window I saw a family eating dinner. They were passing food around the table, eating, laughing and talking. I remember sitting down by a tree in the snow just staring across the street, watching the family enjoying life and each other’s company. I don’t know how long I was there, but I remember what I was thinking. I was thinking, how the fuck did I wind up in this situation? I’m not stupid. I have talents and abilities. I know my life is supposed to be more than this. I feel so lonely. So lonely.
That feeling of loneliness was so intense that for a little while I forgot about the cold. Loneliness can make us numb. When our needs are frozen, literally frozen, we become numb to so many things. And when God sends someone into our lives to bring God’s warm light to thaw our needs, meet our needs, and show us a better way to think and live, it is a miracle so intense that all you want to do is be a vessel through which that miracle is delivered to others.
If it’s partial or conditional, it’s not love. And if it’s not love, then I wouldn’t dare refer to it as a calling.
A beautiful cat was wandering lost in the wilderness on a cold, winter night. Snow covered the ground and the freezing temperatures, slowly but surely, began to disrupt her breathing, heart rate, and instincts. When she first realized she was lost, she panicked and frantically ran in an unknown direction hoping she would find shelter. Out of breath from running, and discouraged from not finding shelter, her emotions began to grow as numb as her frostbitten paws. Her tears of desperation were frozen to her fur, and with each struggling step she took, hopelessness began to fill her. Then, off in the distance she saw a farmhouse. She mustered the last bit of courage and hope she had within her, and moved towards the farmhouse. Both the weight of her despair, as well as the weight of the ice-covered snow sticking to her paws with each step, made her feel as if the weight of the world was upon her. And it was. Her world, seemingly out of nowhere turned from the familiar place where she was born, grew up, loved and knew so well, to an unfamiliar, cold, dark place. With each shaky step, she limped and cried out for someone to help her. And who among us, if we are honest, hasn’t wandered into cold, dark and unfamiliar places, all while never leaving a place we once knew so well?
She wasn’t experiencing a moment of weakness. She had just been strong for as long as she could. And despite all odds she made it close to the farmhouse, where to her pleasant surprise, she saw that the farmer’s truck was just a few more steps from her. With her last bit of strength, she crawled under the truck and felt the warmth emanating from the motor. Warmth, oh, sweet warmth. The warmth gave her hope, and in this hope her heart began to beat strong again. As her blood began to flow strongly through her, she leaped up, crawled onto the warm motor, and as her frozen paws began to thaw, she knew she was safe. She curled up on the motor of that truck and fell into a deep sleep.
As he always did, in the morning the farmer awoke early. After he ate his breakfast and drank his coffee, he went outside, got inside his truck, put the key in the ignition, and started the vehicle. The cat was instantly killed.
We all have needs. Sure, the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are needs. But ask yourself, has your belly ever been full, and yet your heart completely empty? Have you, or someone you know had all the things that brought comfort on the outside, and yet, inside you felt so alone that even in the middle of crowds the loneliness was so intense that it sent shivers up your spine? We have more than the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. We need to be seen, heard, believed, accepted, loved and safe. We as humanity need one another. We are here to meet the needs of each other. It is a blessing and responsibility to thaw out the frozen needs of each other so that we don’t seek temporary warmth by curling up inside a bottle of alcohol, a bottle of pills, with a needle in our arms, or in a lifestyle that is not only destructive, but essentially suicide on an installment plan.
There are many people who are wandering lost in a cold, dark time that just one smile, one word of encouragement, one loving conversation, one afternoon spent with someone who cares – someone like you, would shine a light of warmth and love so bright that their frozen needs would instantly thaw, and you would see it, because all that has been frozen within them would melt, pour out through their eyes, rid them of their pain, and they with you, will take that seventeen inch walk from their head back to their heart. And what greater honor and purpose is there than to be there for one another to call ourselves out of the cold and darkness and back to ourselves and God?
Did the cat commit suicide? You decide.
There was three different groups of travelers walking along the same path at different times. Each of the groups of travelers carried offerings with them.
The first group of travelers came upon a tree that they recognized as poisonous. Because they recognized that the tree contained some poisonous elements, they motioned for everyone to go far around the tree, which they did. The first group of travelers offered avoidance.
Days later, the second group of travelers encountered the tree, and they too, recognized that the tree contained some poisons elements. This group saw the tracks of the first group that went far around the tree. The second group of travelers decided to tie a blue cloth to the tree to warn future travelers that the tree is poisonous. The second group of travelers offered labels.
A little over a week passed when the third group of travelers came into the vicinity of the tree. From a distance, the third group of travelers saw the tracks that went far around the tree, as well as the blue cloth warning them that the tree is poisonous. The third group recognized that the tree contained poisonous elements, but after much prayer and contemplation, the third group of travelers decided to make camp around the tree. The tree became the center of their camp, and they shared an entire season with the tree. They learned that the poisons the tree contains can be transformed to healing medicines when cultivated with the care, patience, and the courage only love can provide. The medicine this tree produces cures sicknesses that there was once no cure for. With honor they approached the tree, and with equal honor they parted ways with the tree. Before they left, the group sang a thank you song and tied a red cloth under the blue cloth, marking the tree as whole and Holy – a significant reminder of the truth that Heaven and Earth are forever connected by the sacredness within all living beings. The third group of travelers offered relationship.
And so it is with our youth and young adults: We can avoid them. We can label them. Or we can spend a season with them and cultivate relationships in love, compassion, truth and honor that will transform any poisons that have been imposed upon them back to the healing medicines they’ve been endowed with by the Creator God.
Our children don’t have to grow up and become something or somebody. They’re much more than some “thing” or some “body,” they’re sacred blessings, miracles and gifts. We all are.
The resistance I receive from some when I facilitate gang intervention training, or any other youth development training, is from those who want to hold on to the idea that there is such a thing as a “bad” kid, but there is no such thing. I’ve met hurting, deeply wounded and traumatized children, but never a “bad” one.
Others who give resistance in my training and workshops are those who want to hold on to the view that labeling and institutionalizing our youth is a solution, but it’s not. The school to prison pipeline is child trafficking.
Those who give me the most resistance in the training and workshops I facilitate, are those who think that transformation isn’t possible. People who truly don’t want a paradigm shift, because that would mean they’d have to make internal changes, mindset adjustments, and begin working within the causes of the challenges our youth are facing – pain, loss, trauma. And since many are unwilling to go to this space within themselves, they’re surely not willing to go there with others.
The youth are the solution, not the problem. The challenges our society faces is not the fault of our young people in society. The challenges that the youth face in our society is a reflection of our society within the youth.
Healing, true transformation is possible. I’ve witnessed too many miracles to be a skeptic. But it comes with and in love, compassionate correction and guidance, not punishment, prescriptions and labels.
I was once asked, “Don’t you get tired of working with gang members and hard-to-serve populations?”
Through my laughter, I responded, “If that’s how I saw them I probably would.”
~ Walk In Beauty,
Can I get a witness to testify of my truth? That’s a holy, childlike question we are all asking of each other.
Whenever we witness about the mistakes, frailties and shortcomings of ourselves and each other, we are witnessing falsely. And in sharing this false witness, we strengthen our belief in fear.
Whenever we witness about the sacredness of ourselves and all others, the truth that you, me and all others are children of the Most High God, created in God’s perfect likeness and image, we are witnessing truth. And in sharing this truthful witness, we strengthen our belief in love.
In sharing the truthful witness of love about ourselves and one another, we don’t find gratitude in the suffering of others, so we no longer say, “By the grace of God there go I,” we now say, “By the grace of God there goes a part of God, my brother, my sister whom I need to go meet and bear truthful witness to, so that together we remember and are reminded that we are all sacred blessings, miracles, and gifts.”