When asked to write this blog post I debated about what to say. Should I discuss the difficulties? Should I talk about the highlights, such as when one of our young men goes to a family? Or should it be the incredible generosity so many have shown us? Yet what I came back to was that one without the others is incomplete. It is the generosity of those who care about these boys and give financially that allows others to give their lives. Without these gifts, we cannot have the highlights. A young man who takes a step to discuss with us some of the thoughts that are bothering him, something he hasn’t done well before, is a highlight only in the gloom of the destructive and aggressive behavior that preceded it. In the gloom, the shadows of the process, it’s hard to see the coming highlight. Poor behavior repeated over and over again gives the impression of hopelessness, certainly to the youth and often to the parents. Our job is to fire the flare of hope, repeatedly, in a way that allows the youth to look up and see what they can achieve, even if they don’t currently believe it. When that achievement comes, in the way it did this past week with one of our young men, we celebrate it. We identify to ourselves and that young man the milestone that has been marked and look back over the valley traversed. This gives us the highlight. An insignificant moment to others, but to our boy? Hope. A step away from the fatigue of fighting to change seemingly intractable behavior and a public recognition or achievement. The boy who can’t take a compliment begins to compliment others. A young man to whom wariness is a lifestyle begins to settle down and sleep through the night. Lying decreases, aggressiveness is mollified and real eye contact begins.
This past week we had a lot of fun playing Sprouts, a modified game of dodgeball in the gym with the boys. The day before we got cursed at for an extended period by one of the boys who didn’t want to serve his consequences. Then there is the young man who handled physical aggressiveness from another boy the right way. Another youth is struggling with dyslexia concurrently with attention deficit disorder making reading extremely difficult. A boy asks us to pray with him for self control when he is angry. Our youngest cleans his room for four days in a row! Another steals from peers at school. The gloom of the difficult, the hope of the highlight and the empowering wave of generosity. All are inevitable or necessary parts of the journey. All are enhanced by the others.
In conclusion we hope that this is encouraging. Undoubtedly you have struggles and while they probably don’t mirror ours they tug at you in similar ways. May you struggle well. May you recognize the victory when it comes. May you enjoy the times of rest and the satisfaction of effort given for what is good. Thank you to those whose generosity allows us to continue. May you be blessed.
-Derek and Belen, C Cottage House Parents