Most people haven’t had the opportunity to live with a group of people who are social outcasts. It’s common for people to show pity on those unlovable people, but it’s extremely rare for them to be willing to step into the trenches with them.
My husband and I had the life-changing opportunity to do this.
I call it an “opportunity” because, although it was miserable in a lot of ways, it was also incredibly enlightening. We learned things about an entire demographic that we’d made assumptions about, which we never would’ve understood had we not cohabitated with them.
Even teaching them, mentoring them, knowing them, and talking to them would not have given us the same understanding as we got from living with them.
What an eye-opening opportunity.
For about a year and a half, my husband and I had eight teenage boys living with us at one time, all of whom were placed in our care because of behavioral concerns. Some were there for self harm, others for physical aggression, and others still for drug abuse.
But they were all under the age of eighteen, and they ALL had a story filled with pain.
There were so many moments when I thought, “If only someone could have gotten through to them when they were little…”
I wished so badly to go back and change their stories so that they could avoid all of that pain. It taught me to pray for children who are growing up now so that they can avoid some of it, too.
But more than that, it taught me to reach out to the kids who are growing up now, grab their hands, and guide them around the trenches of life.
We have to teach them to notice the bad stuff. To see it for what it is.
We have to show them how to get around it without walking through it.
We have to be willing to teach them that same lesson over and over again because sometimes it’s hard to retrain our thoughts.
And we have to recognize that some trenches can be tricky. They lay in wait. They trap us. Even as adults, we have a hard time walking around them sometimes so when we interact with a child … we have to understand why they need frequent reminders.
That doesn’t mean hollering at them from the other side of the trench, instructing them on how to get around it. And it certainly doesn’t mean yelling, “We’ve gone over this and over this. Why can’t you get it right?”
It means stepping right into the trench, wading through it, and getting over to the other side with them so you can hold their hand.
Over and over and over.
Every single time, without fail.
Because you refusing to hold their hand that ONE time could drastically alter the course of their life.
We have an amazing opportunity, as adults, to walk back and forth across bridges and help young people into adulthood. It’s never about what they deserve. It’s about what they need.
Sometimes a kid needs to learn that there are real-life consequences to their actions. (Although, delivery is crucial.)
Yet, other times, they need someone to show them grace and teach them a new life skill. And like I said, they might need that grace multiple times, so much further than what they “deserve.”
It reminds me of the YouTube video that came out a while back where the little boy helps his sister across a gap in the cement by lying down to be a human bridge for her. He didn’t just walk over to hold her hand. He tried that, but when it didn’t work, he BECAME the bridge.
That is beautiful.
If a child can do it, we can all do it, too.
Lay down your lives for the lives of those who come after us. They’re no less valuable than we are, they’re just less experienced.
Instead of using your wisdom to tell them all the things they don’t know, and all the ways they don’t measure up, share what you’ve learned with them and be patient as they grow.
Tiny humans are our most precious gift and our greatest hope for the future, but they can’t be more than you teach them to be.