I’ve been involved with Hosea coming on a year in March. That is pretty crazy to think about, and has left me doing a ton of reflection on my time here. A post like this, about the things that I’ve learned over the last 10 months in knowing these kids could be extremely long, so I’m going to narrow it to three major points. You find out really quickly that if you have the posture of you’re the teacher and they’re the student, you’re going to miss out in a major way. That one was for free, now let’s get into the three biggest lessons I’ve learned so far.
Street Life is a Culture, Not Just a Bad Thing That Happens
This is one of the craziest things I’ve figured out over my time at Hosea. When you go down into the drop-in, you’re not just embracing the community of beaten and worn, down on their luck people. What you’re walking into is a way of life, and a constant hustle. So often these young people go to the streets because they’re walking away from something even more dangerous, but the craziest part is how they stay on the streets. It’s one of the ultimate deceptions, and realities, the freedom of the streets. There is a pull and desire, once you get to the streets to stay there. There is an answer to no one, a constant hustle, and a freedom that isn’t free at all. There is no doubt each youth wants a roof over their head, but it’s a culture and a life that is so hard to deny once it’s ingrained in them. Whether it’s addiction, abuse, or just the belief that they aren’t worth it, the street culture is one that is hard to shake.
It’s Ok to Not Have All The Right Answers
The quickest, but maybe most powerful lesson I’ve learned at Hosea is it’s ok to not have the right answers, not just some times, but all the time. Youth homelessness (as described above) is an extremely complex issue. There have been some really dark life stories, and things I could never imagine being shared with me as I’m sitting up on that stoop. I’ve found myself listening, and just searching for some kind of response, some kind of answer, but sometimes it’s impossible. “I don’t know” is one of those phrases I’ve learned to adopt, more so than I ever have in my life. Not because I don’t want to, but because they aren’t there, and sometimes the best thing we can do, is sit quietly and just be with these kids in their domain and lives.
Love Has to Be Unselfish
Finally, the ultimate gift and lesson I’ve learned is that not only is your best asset love, but it must be unselfish love. It’s amazing what walking in there with this idea, that I’m going to ‘help’ or ‘fix’ a problem can do to derail your time and ability to love. I don’t know if any human being wants to look or feel like an issue that needs to be fixed, but I know that in our DNA and human existence is a very large piece of us that wants to be loved. And these kids have an immense deficit. Every wall put up, every word exchanged, every smile shared is a picture of kids and adults alike that can share in love. We can learn from these kids something so significant within this, and that is about authenticity. These youth wear their hearts on their sleeves, and sometimes the most beautiful act of love is listening and accepting. Setting yourself aside is so key in love, sacrifice is so key in love, and their are few places on earth that you have a better opportunity to do so.
I love this place called Hosea, I love these kids and friends I’ve made, and truly they love me back. Everything I’ve learned will be something I get to carry forever, and forever I will be grateful for my opportunity to learn and to love.
~Zach Leiken, Drop-In Center Staff