Thursday, November 29, 2018

In The Spotlight ~ A Place At Christmas Time (and Always) For Youth To Be Who They Are...Despite Their Circumstances

With the Holidays officially kicking into high gear, I thought we'd have a series of posts relating to the more difficult side of getting through this time of year.

From now until after New Years, we are bombarded with the festive decorations, the music, the shopping for the right gifts and, maybe, even visits from family or friends we don't normally see. But despite of all the joy and happiness we're supposed to experience this time of year, for many of us it is an excruciating time. Whether it stems from loss, financial woes, family dysfunction or a combination of all of these, some of us do everything in our power to hold it together or just get through it all. And this is amplified ten-fold for the children and youth it all trickles down to.

What about the young people, who are at the bottom rung of the family dysfunction cycle, and simply want to find peace away from the chaos they're expected to accept or say nothing about? What about that teen on the street who believes they have nowhere else to go or anyone who'd even care whether they were there or not? Or the child who wakes up Christmas morning to no beautifully decorated tree, no Santa gifts, no special family-Holiday meal because, for whatever the cause, there's no money to make the day different from any other they live through?

These are the people I tend to gravitate to more this time of year not only because I can relate to many of these issues, but more because my heart goes out to children and youth who shouldn't have to experience these things at this level when they are so young. Sure, who hasn't gone to the grocery store and bought one of those food donation packages to add on to our cart full of Christmas goodies? And there are those who regularly donate to the Food Bank, Salvation Army, Santa's Anonymous and other notable charities who do what they can with what they have to help others get through these times. Unfortunately, though, there are those to take from these charities who really don't need the resources only adding to the emptiness for children and families who really could use the assistance.

But there are community resources who see that in order to help children and youth in these situations and guide them to break free of the cycles they've involuntarily been put in, especially right now, we need to create a safe, unbiased, protective environment that teaches these kids to empower themselves and realize that, "Hey! Yeah! Someone does give a hooter's damn about me. I do matter. I can make it!".  One of these places is the Old Strathcona Youth Society (Another local child-focused charity is Zebra Centre which, as you all know, is very near and dear to my heart.)

The OSYS is what they call a 'street level resource' offering safety, kindness, protection and a warm place to go that focuses on restoring a child or youth's self-worth. We will be featuring them in future In The Spotlight in the weeks to come, but I wanted to 'introduce' them here today. We need more places like this in our communities because even though many of us say these children are our future, we aren't really doing all we can to ensure this happens.

So in the weeks to come, please remember this often forgotten about group while you're out shopping, eating, visiting, celebrating and enjoying all of the happiness you experience this time of year. Because there are some who are only able to experience it by watching.

They don't all beg for money or are addicts. Most of them don't even ask for anything, and very likely wouldn't accept it if its offered. They only want to be seen and, maybe, be given a chance to change where they feel they have to be right then.

Be that person to reach out.

That is the true spirit of Christmas.

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