Working with at-risk and homeless youth can sometimes be very discouraging. You watch youth go through cycle after cycle of dysfunction and lack. We watch them struggle with mental health issues, addictions issues, interpersonal relationships, housing issues, and financial struggles. We know that we can’t change anything for them. We can be there to support them and be a shoulder and an ear but not much more. We can serve them a hot meal. We can be a healthy role model. We can encourage them to keep going. But after a time, discouragement kicks in when the crises don’t change. Because that’s what they are: crises. Of course it becomes discouraging to keep feeding them a meal, and putting bandages on their gaping wounds while watching them self-destruct. Maybe a bandage just isn’t what’s needed anymore? Change is what’s needed! But how do you encourage change? ...real change? Well, if it was you, I would tell you the truth; the truth that the only person responsible for you is you. The only person with the power to change your life is you. And sometimes the only way to effect real change is to rip off the bandage. You see, after so many years of being a friend to these kids, I’ve realize that I haven’t done much to change their situations because I haven’t been honest with them. I have sympathized with their struggles but not then said: ok, now what? What are you going to do to change it? Is this the life you want to accept? Are you ready to fight? Because all of us know that whatever you want in life you have to fight for. Because no matter what our circumstances we are all responsible for the lives we have. We have all been victims at one point or another, but eventually if we want our lives back we have to fight NOT to be victims anymore. If all I do is sympathize with you about your situation but don’t encourage you to fight, what will change for you? We all need encouragement that we DO have the power to rise above; that we don’t need to be victims the rest of our lives; and that no-one will change our circumstances but ourselves. Change will not be affected if you just sympathize with people’s weaknesses. You need to actually empower them to change. Let’s stop encouraging people to stay victims, but let them know that they are so much more than their current circumstances and that they have the POWER to change those circumstances. Do not accept status quo. You are not your labels; you are not your circumstances; you are not your struggles; you are so much more… fearfully and wonderfully made.
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