Kid, I hope you’ve finally found some peace

I started working with youth in 2008

Up until that point

I sort of dabbled in working with different populations

At a youth shelter, I found my place

It just felt right

Since then

I had worked exclusively with youth

Mostly homeless and/or at risk youth

Eventually I worked out of Mississauga as an outreach worker

Anyway

I have this thing that I do

I read the paper in the mornings or at night

If a headline catches my eye

That something happened in one of the areas that I worked in

I read it

Sometimes it’s about a young person who was a victim of crime

Or a perpetrator

Sometimes it’s about no one I know

Today

It was about someone I think I may have known

His name immediately caught my eye

And while it was spelled incorrectly

His age adds up to who I remembered

He was killed in a violet crime

He was of no fixed address

It all adds up

But all I keep thinking about

Are his vivid blue eyes

And the protective way he took care of his little brother

Sure I remember other things

Like taking him to court and working through his anger with him

Being upset that he got arrested again

Or something else

But I remember more about the long stretches his mother would leave him and his little brother home alone to fend for themselves

While she went to Florida with her boyfriend

With no food in the house

Under the guise that his grandma was watching them

I remember his dysfunctional mother calling me

Alternating between crying and yelling at me

That she couldn’t handle him

Wanted him to move out

I remember when I had two clients scheduled for court on the same day and time

So I figured I’d just drive them both home

No biggie

Until they told me to drop them off at the same location and went off together

If it’s you that was in the paper

If it’s you whose life was snuffed out far too early and much too violently

I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more to help you

I’m sorry that I couldn’t prepare you better for what was coming next

I’m sorry that life treated you unfairly from the beginning

I’m just sorry

And I promise to remember you

With your vivid blue eyes

And the way you wanted to protect your little brother

Rest In Peace, kid

You deserve to finally have some peace

The fountain of youth is empty

I wanna take a break from our regularly scheduled program of all things fuck MS 

I don’t have any poetic words or sassy comments for this one 

When I’m not writing crabby and sometimes hopeful blogs, I’m a youth worker in a contained classroom within a high school setting

I work with up to 8 youth between the ages of 14-18

While we are open to working with all genders we do tend to have a largely male population 

The youths that come to us have sometimes been in similar programming before, or have no idea what we offer

They come from catholic or public schools, from treatment or detention

They come from single parent families, two parent families, foster care or completely broken homes

They come from diverse backgrounds and religious affiliations 

Some of their families were born here while others immigrated to Canada

The youth come to us with the official purpose of being reintegrated into mainstream schooling one day

Unofficially

Well that’s a different story

They come to us because of negative situations they’ve found themselves in

At school or in the community

They come to us from abusive homes or homes where they just don’t matter

It’s hard to say which is worse 

So 

They come to us looking for a place in the world to belong

Even if it’s just Monday to Friday 

We try to offer them a soft landing spot

Where they can stop acting or reacting 

They can just be

And lately

More often than not

They come to us hungry

I don’t mean hangry type of hunger

I mean stomach pains and shrinking stomach type of hunger

Where they go to sleep hungry and wake up hungry

And teenage boys

Well they have a very hard time asking for help

They are reluctant to admit that there’s no food at home

Fuck it no young person should ever have to face having no food

No young person should have to deal with the shame that goes with having no food

On top of all the other shit that goes on in the life of an adolescent

Lack of food

Should not be one of the difficulties they face

Yet they do

Everyday

And we become detectives

Observing their sallow and dry skin

The way their jeans hang off of them when they never did before

If they brought lunch

Asking questions about breakfast or dinners

And so

We take them grocery shopping

And marvel at their amazement in being able to pick out a cereal

Not the kiddy sugary kind

But the oat and nuts one

That are usually just too expensive and out of their reach 

We watch as they worry about making us spend too much money

And try to remove things from the cart

Things we suggested they get

We struggle to remind them that we are able to purchase this or that for them

And we wonder what will happen when they’re no longer with us

It would be easy to say that the life skills taught will be enough to get them from one negative place in life to a healthier better one

But that’s not the reality they live in

It’s not the reality I live in

So we focus on the now 

We focus on ensuring that they can get to school when they want to

That they can eat food when they’re hungry

That they have toiletries and hygiene products when they need to bathe

But what happens when they leave our program?

Who takes care of them then?

When they’re too old for children’s aid to be involved?

Maybe society needs to step up

People often like to pretend that there are no children going hungry in our part of the world

But that’s an ignorant belief

Take off the blinders

People are so quick to point out all the flaws and negative behaviours youth might participate in

Social commentary on parenting and discipline is ever present

Everyone expresses their sadness 

But these youth need more than to know that your heart hurts for them

I understand that this is not the reality in most people’s worlds

But just because you didn’t go hungry as a kid or because your kids don’t go hungry now

Does not mean that there isn’t a young person who hasn’t eaten anything today

All damn day

I’m miserable when I skip breakfast

Or if I didn’t have my morning cup of coffee 

Please remember these youth year round

Not just on holidays

Simply put

We have got to start doing better for our youth  

All of us

Me included

It takes a village…