With this post going out on Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to use it as an avenue of thanks to all of you. We have passed 8 years of working to impact teenagers’ lives. 8 years of walking with students and teaching them how to navigate life, sometimes a very tough life. But it’s not about us because we could not have done any of it without you. One thing has been very clear to me since we launched Teen Life in 2008, we are in this together. Everyone that knows who Teen Life is and what we do is a part, no matter how big or small.
Thank you for allowing me to meet a young man who was working hard to make good decision. A young man who had a mom who was trying to get him to use cocaine. I am so glad he was choosing not to do that, and because of you, he got affirmation from his peers in our Support Group that he was making the right choice.
I am thankful for the young man I talked to that felt comfortable sharing that he did not believe in a God who would let his grandfather die – a grandfather who was the only father figure he had known. I am thankful because I had a similar experience, and we were able to talk through what that meant and how he might have a different outlook on where his life is heading.
I remember the teenaged parents we have worked with that felt they had no where else to turn. They had been working hard since sharing the news of being pregnant to prove to everyone around them that they could do it. They desperately needed a place to turn that believed they could and was willing to simply offer them help where they needed it. This is possible because you donate baby items, we receive help from Just Between Friends, and you give $10 donations that allow us to buy wipes and diapers to give them.
Thank you to those who have donated $40 because you heard us talk about our First Group Kits. Your generosity makes it possible for us to provide the supplies needed for new facilitators to start their first group. This removes any barrier that might be in the way and propels them to get that first group going.
Thank you for making it possible for me to sit in a group and let a young freshman talk about how much trouble he has gotten in that caused him end up in the disciplinary program. Bragging really. But because of the way we set up these groups, I listened, but his peers called him out for not making good choices. Because of the safe space we create in our groups, we had a good discussion about why this wasn’t the place to brag and how those poor choices would lead him nowhere fast. He truly seemed to get it.
I am thankful for the hours we spend at the local drug rehab listening to the teen guys who desperately need a new narrative for their life. Many of them have bought into a life that is constantly on defense, that requires them to be in a constant state of anxiousness about what might be around the next corner. It is such a blessing to talk with them about how that could change and see the hope in their eyes when they realize it truly could happen.
I am thankful for the times I have been able to tell a school counselor, Principal, Superintendent or teacher, “Yes, our program really is free.” And for the relief in their faces because they know the preventative benefit it could provide, but they didn’t know how they could get the funds in place to bring our groups in soon enough.
I wish you could be there to see the relief on the students faces when they begin to realize that our groups truly are for them. We aren’t there to do more education. We are there to facilitate discussion. We are there to listen and process and share from our own experience. We are there to help guide, but we couldn’t do that without the support you have so generously provided for all these years.
So on this Thanksgiving, know that however you have helped – diapers, money, prayers, volunteering, or telling someone how to reach us – you are a part of all of these lives. You have made a difference, and you get to brag about that. Not all bragging is bad, especially when it shines a light on teenagers that need support, connection and resources that together we can make available.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!