I went to a meeting last night for the local chapter of House of Hope; an organization started in Florida but reaching out across the country to provide programs and assistance to young people and families in crisis. Their purpose is to reconcile those relationships that are broken and dysfunctional to a point that there is enough healthy interaction to move forward. I believe that they are at the tip of what is an epidemic in our nation; an epidemic of a disease of destruction which is eating away at the family unit and destroying the hope of generations.
I volunteered in youth prisons for a couple of years and over time developed a routine which I tended to default to when I met a young man (ages 14-18) for the first time in the facility. I would introduce myself and ask the boy his name and where he was from. Almost invariably, he was reluctant to interact at all and would usually be looking at the floor with no self-confidence or interest in opening up even a little bit about himself. I would then typically ask him where his father is and that would get his attention; he would usually look at me with interest for the first time. I would often have to repeat the question as he was caught off guard, “where is your father?” The stories were always terrible; dead, in prison, never met him, he’s not around since I was ___ years old, drunk, on drugs, etc., etc. The only reasonable response at that point in our conversation was, “I’m sorry; I’m really sorry that you have had to deal with that.” I can’t fix it, I can only hope to meet the kid where he is and show some comfort that his story and hurt is legitimate.
That was often a start to at least some kind of relationship where we could talk more about the influences in his life that he had been challenged with and the choices that flowed from those circumstances. That would often lead to conversations where he could begin to connect the hurt from his circumstances with the knowledge of his frustrations. Connecting the heart and the head to begin to understand that he wasn’t weird for being angry and that the anger came from the hurt. Understand the hurt, hopefully choose to forgive and maybe begin to walk out of the cycle.
The thing that I have found is those same stories are found in the suburbs and the nicest neighborhoods; they just look a little different. The stories may drift more towards; they don’t listen to me, they don’t support me, they always criticize me, they are always working, etc., etc. The need for affirmation and acceptance with unconditional love is a need for our kids and difficult to communicate for many families and parents. Check into House of Hope; I am and am initially very impressed. See if you can support them locally or if you could use some help in connecting hearts and heads in your own house to walk out of cycles of hurt and defeat and into Hope.