spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
having or giving something on a lavish scale.
Everyone knows the story of the prodigal son who asks for his inheritance, and after wasting it he went crawling back to his father, who then welcomes him home. Is this a story about the over indulgent son, or of a father’s unconditional love for his child?
I have been toiling over this blog for a while now. Not knowing where it was going gave me great pains. The truth is, it is a story without an ending; it is a tale that, unfortunately, I hear and see all too often.
This tale started about a year and a half ago when we met a young lady hardened by street life. “M” was smart and witty in a sassy way that I find very endearing. She had been on her own for several years, now at 16 about to be 17, she felt she needed to turn herself in to CPS to gain some support and financial assistance. “M” had attended school sporadically throughout her life, so graduating from high school was not really an option for her; she spoke of possibly trying for her GED. “M” had this tough guy attitude, but she always had someone under her wing: she was a protector of the weak within the house. Motherly would be the word used to describe her. “M” grew up with a drug addicted mother and 2 young siblings. This, I believe, is why she protects and mothers the weak.
The turning point of her opening up and trusting us came when one of the ladies from our ministry set up a day long retreat here at St Patrick’s for the girls from the homes. The retreat was led by our wonderful ministers from Life Teen. I was a bit apprehensive about it but it turned out amazingly well. Shortly after the day retreat, “M “and two other girls attended a full Life Teen retreat. When we picked them up after the Sunday night Mass it was obvious that each of the girls experienced the touch of God’s grace. It was wonderful to hear them discuss their experiences with us over dinner that night.
That spring is when “M” moved into an independent living program. She got a job with a painting company and was signed up for her GED class. Life was good for her, she seemed very happy, and for the first time there was excitement in her voice. Then she stopped calling. Our texts were unanswered. We went by the place where she lived only to find out that she had up and left and no one had any idea where she had gone off to. Her phone was off, no service, and she was gone.
On a Monday night in January, our phone rang. It was “M”. She said she was not in a safe place and needed to find a place to stay, that she was afraid. Homeless, no job, no clothes other than what she had on, she was asking for help. We helped her look for services, we made calls to all the shelters only to find out what she already knew: there was no space available for her anywhere. Thankfully, her cousin took her in; she could sleep there but had to leave during the day. On Saturday we met with her to bring her some donated clothes and take her out for a big breakfast; she was emaciated, a sliver of her former self.
Over breakfast, “M” filled us in on what she could remember of her missing months. She had moved in with her mother because “mom said she would take care of me”. Only, she fell into the same darkness her mother has been in for her adult life, the comfort of drugs. When the drugs were too much she moved in with a guy 15+ years her senior, only to be bounced out again. “M” had several stints in various jails for things “that were not my fault”. All of that aside, she wanted to get clean, get back into the assistance program for foster youth, and get a job. She said all the right things, and all she was asking was for someone to listen, to be there for support.
We took her to Walmart to purchase an outfit that she could wear to a job interview. We dropped her back at the apartment complex and after long hugs we watched this emaciated young woman with a bag of clothes and a bigger bag of leftovers disappear into the maze of buildings. We met with “M” several times over the following weeks until she disappeared again for a week or so. When we finally saw her, she was wearing an ankle monitor. She had been arrested again. “M” told us she couldn’t go look for a job now because everyone just sees her monitor and would never hire her. It was quite large. Back to Walmart to buy pants that would cover it and hopefully give her the confidence to go get a job. Back at the apartment complex there were lots of hugs, and smiles… You see, she was going for an interview the next day. “I will call you and let you know how it went”.
That was the last time we saw “M”. She is a lost child, not yet 19. Has she been arrested, gone to jail? Is she safe? Has she gone back into the darkness that enveloped her soul?
We will wait by the phone, watch the road that leads her back, waiting to see her crazy hair and distinct gait as she strolls toward us. We will welcome her back as we will welcome all of the lost children.
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.