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…