Allow me to divert from my traditional ‘blog’, and share an account from one of our Street Outreach teams:
Scene 1: Rideau Street McDonalds. We had not seen Amy for about 18 months, but there she was! We learned she has been in Montreal since we last met, but was just back on the streets in Ottawa. It was great to see her again, and she felt the same.
Out from the shadows emerges ‘Nain’ who struts over in a territorial, macho, ‘turf’, teenage alpha male style. In no uncertain terms, Nain let me know who he was and who Amy was relative to him. His nose almost touched mine as he ranted that he was a ‘real’ street guy and an Arian ‘brother’. Not threatening really, but certainly intentional.
We talked: how we knew Amy, what OIM was, how things were going with them, and we actually got to know each other.
Scene 2: Outreach in the Market Late night Monday outreach we found Amy and Nain tucked into a door stoop, under a sleeping bag, in the Market area. Nain remembered our first encounter and was actually happy to see us.
We spent the next ½ hour with our new friends. This time things were different. Gone was the harsh cold superficial exterior of the teenage alpha male. Instead we saw two young people who missed out on most childhood things because of abuse and violence in the home. They became like kids again as they shared their childhood stories, stories that were enough to move the strongest of characters to tears. At one point Nain made the statement “I was raised on hatred; I don’t really want to be this way”.
It was now after midnight and we had to move along: both for our outreach and so the two young people would remain ‘hidden’ in the door stoop.
I guess it was the father in me, that made me lift their sleeping bag, give it a shake and put it back over them in the cold doorway. I was careful to tuck in all the edges, just as I would do to my own children.
One of the most difficult things I have ever done was walk away and try to rationalize how we could leave two ‘kids’ to sleep in a doorway outside in the cold.
Scene 3: The next Thursday night we come across Nain, Amy and a few more street friends on Rideau. We strike up a conversation ranging from the weather change to hockey, etc, and in the midst of our ‘chat’, Nain looks directly at us and says, “Thank you for tucking us in the other night”.
Our macho, teenage alpha male, Aryan ‘brother’ had been transformed into someone, who just like us, who was able to enjoy a small piece of love and understanding under a sleeping bag in a doorway on a cold Ottawa winter night.
Reminders: 1. ‘Things on the street are not always as they initially appear, and more importantly, 2. We are genuinely humbled that we could have such a special moment and developing relationship with some young friends. That’s what makes volunteering such a great experience. Gregg.