Julie is our Transitional Housing Manager. She has been working at Covenant House since 2001. She is constantly moved by the passion, power and perseverance of our youth and staff.
The one where you find yourself meeting somebody new and dusting off the old social skills. They ask, “Hi, how are you? How do you know so- and-so?” And then, the inevitable, “So, what do you do for a living?” To be honest, I love this question…When I say I work at Covenant House, it is usually a show-stopper.
Covenant House. It’s quite amazing actually, when I stop to think about the fact that there are very few people to whom I say, “Covenant House”, who say, “Hmm, never heard of it.” I like that part too. That I’m part of something that’s so recognizable like Nike or the Big Mac.
So, I say it. Covenant House. And I watch their faces. They change. They soften. The lines around their eyes smooth out and the mouths turn down at the sides just a bit as they say, “Wow, that must be hard.”
Hard? Yeah, sometimes, sure. Sometimes it is hard to surround yourself with 10 plus teenagers, with their teenage hormones and their teenage angst and their brilliant and honest teenage wit. I find myself thinking, “Did you just say ‘duh’ to me? I didn’t think they used that word anymore…whaddayaknow.”
Hard? Yeah, sometimes, sure. To bear witness to their pain. To be there to catch it and hold it because they just can’t anymore. To walk away and wring it out for them and come back the next day to do it all again.
Hard? Yeah, sometimes, sure. To wonder why. Why them, why that, why can’t she stop, why can’t I help him?
Hard. Sure. For them and for us. And easy too.
I marvel at the absolute and utter beauty of our interactions. That they allow us to crawl inside their space and to trust us with their stories. I think at these times, how people, maybe these same dinner-party people, think that these at-risk, homeless, or whatever the newest descriptor is, youth, are so damaged, so emotionally challenged. I smile and think how contrary this really is. Take a kid who has been in the child welfare system since they were nine. They are now 20. They have had more thoughtful, authentic conversations in their lifetime, than many adults will ever. We routinely encourage and cajole them to connect with themselves and to articulate those connections with us in the hopes that it will help. Emotionally challenged? Nah. Emotionally exhausted, maybe. But they often have insights and internal dialogues that surpass most self-help books.
Easy. To belong to them. To be allowed to be part of their big Play-Doh ball of joys, agonies and growth. They don’t care if we get all mixed together in their multi-coloured clay. A little bit of Julie here with her pep-talk on finding peace and a little bit of Billy there with his big pitch on reaching further. All of us slapped on and added to their gentle, sometimes super-charged, be-ings. That’s easy.
What’s hard are these darned dinner parties.