Sunday, April 5, 2009

Out of Lake Oswego and Into Real Life

There was a boy who did not live with his dad, but he was able to call his dad, and he put his hope in being able to meet his dad, and his dad would say he would meet his son at a certain time and spot, but his dad never showed up.

The boy would just say, “Oh, it’s fine.”

“He kept blowing it off as unimportant. They learn to let it go,” says Linda Parker, who served once a month on Fridays for two years at Transitional Youth with the community group that her family is a part of, until Friday nights became unavailable. “They are just kids. They are out there all by themselves. Well, they have their street family. I think for us, this was a real need. The program is trying to do something impactful, just being there for them.”

She thinks about Roger.

“He would hang out with us and he would stay until the end and he would say the closing prayer. And then he stopped staying around at the end. He’s struggling right now. Many of these kids—no one cares about them and just us being there, communicates a lot.”

Kids asked Linda’s group, “Why are you doing this? Why do you come every month?” They are aware that someone is putting an effort out for them.

“We tried to make it clear we were there because they are worth caring about and worth serving. For the most part, they just want someone to sympathize. They are not looking for you to solve their problems. They really just want someone to listen.”

During the time that Linda’s group was helping at Transitional Youth, they were going through some transitions of their own. Some of the kids in their community group were graduating from high school and took off for college or to Torchbearers. Others were moving on to their last year of middle school.

But all grew in some way because of serving.

“The view of the world we received was much larger than that of West Linn and Lake Oswego. It wasn't that we were naive and didn't know what existed outside of our comfortable communities, at least for the adults, but we didn't rub up against it in our day-to-day lives so it was easy to dismiss.”

They kept going because they had made a commitment and they believed they were having an impact.

“We honestly believed God wanted us there and we felt the ministry was important. We see Transitional Youth as a viable opportunity for youth to get off living on the streets of Portland.”

They saw real life.

There was a young girl and young man pushing a baby stroller, with a baby only a few weeks old. They did not have a place to stay for the night. The mother of the young parents had kicked them out and the brother of the young parents would not let them stay at his place.

“As they left the building, it was still a question mark as to where the couple and this little baby would spend the night. The girl was meeting her case worker the next day, but having dad in the picture might alter what kind of help they qualified for. The image of that little baby, so innocent and helpless, with parents that were children themselves, stayed with me. I still think about it. There is so much hurt and hopelessness out there and only God can provide peace. If in any way we reinforced God's love to the kids of Transitional Youth, it was worth all the effort we made over the two years.”

Youth come to Transitional Youth for a warm meal and for friendship and camaraderie and support. And to find a listening ear.
“Through our interaction with them, we looked to plant some hope, and that's what Transitional Youth offers.”

This story was first published on the Rolling Hills community service page at:

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