Friday, October 9, 2009

Unaccompanied youth

Last night long after Beve seemed to have begun the leg-twitching and deep-breathing that signals that he's asleep, he rolled over and began talking about someone he'd met during the day, someone who came from nothing, and was grateful for the smallest help.  After he rolled back over and resumed leg-twitching, I thought again about how much I take my life for granted.  My life, my home, my family.  We are so solidly in the middle, I usually think, but the reality is that we are blessed beyond compare. We are definitely among the 'haves' of this world.

Beve spends his days with people who have not.  Unaccompanied youth is what these kids are called, in the parlance of the system.  It means that they have no adult in their lives.  They're either in the foster care system, or are homeless.  And I mean literally homeless. I remember Beve telling me about one of his students who were squatting in an empty house, having broken in through broken windows.  The things they were doing in that house I don't want to know, the things that all of these kids do to survive--it's all pretty hard to hear.  But Beve has heard it all.  He's taken photos of bruises caused by parents, he's listened to stories of unwanted pregnancies, drugs, parents or siblings in prison.  And most of the time, he just carries it around in him.  I've watched him talk to a kid who is suicidal, make the calls to help this kid, take care of that, then, with a small shift of his shoulders, call the next kid into his office who simply wants a bus pass.  And he's equally attentive to each of them.

Tonight he's down in Seattle because he's on the board of a Foundation that raises monies to give students who might need athletic shoes, school supplies, a winter coat.  The person Beve told me about last night is a grown man who once lived barely above the poverty line, and every school activity was off limits for him because the family had no money.  This man grew up to be fairly wealthy, and he wrote a check for this Foundation large enough that it surprised Beve.  This man knows about giving back, knows what it might mean to a student to have the money for lab fees, or a P.E. lock.  He gave enough for many such locks.  And it will make a difference.

The thing is, if not for Beve, I'd live a fairly homogenous life.  Most of the people I know, am friends with, are in our tax-bracket, share our educational background, have white collar jobs.  And it's probable that I walk past people in the grocery store who are trying to decide whether to get bread or pasta with the change in their pockets. And I know I drive past some on the corners who hold signs pointing to their homelessness. Our town has many such corners, many such people with signs.  You know what Beve does?  He'll drive through a Jack-in-the-Box or MacDonalds, buy some burgers and hand them out through the window of the car to these hungry people.

And I know kids--kids my kids' ages--who could teach me a thing or two about living the gospel when it comes to caring for the poor.  I have neighbors who are neighbors--in the most Biblical sense--to the down and out.  As I sit here tonight in my comfortable house, with my life full of things, and therefore, full of dreams, I'm thankful for what Beve, these kids, our neighbors do.  And I'm wondering how God would have me put on my shoes and put feet to my faith.

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