Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Lure of the Street (Part 1)

W ran away.

It has been over a week now, but I haven't had the composure to comment. A heady mix of sadness, frustration, anger and hope, which (in turn) has required a generous serving of grace.

He had begun to speak of his brother frequently in the days leading up to his departure. Whenever he was asked to stop being naughty he'd threaten to leave (but such manipulation is nothing new - some of the boys who have been with us for months still use that trick). Each time he would ask for his few personal possessions and wait by the front gate, he could be distracted by my quickly suggesting a bike ride or a game of dominoes (which he never tired of). When he could finally be distracted no more, I ran down the street after him (you'd be surprised how fast he can go on one leg and a pair of crutches) and asked him the obvious. The pain of separation from his brother and from the street was clearly too much. No amount of exhortation would move him. He was gone.

At this point, I'd like to share part of a documentary that was aired on national television the week that W left. He (and his brother) were the central focus of the film. If you can tolerate the rather sensationalist direction, the first few minutes give an idea of the children we work with on the street.

When children we care for run away, the first thought is to search out and immediately confront the child. To persist. To make them come to their senses. However, like the Prodigal Son, one often has to wait until they reach the pig pen before they are ready to come home. Only then does the Father respond. But when he does, he runs to meet his son!

I read this recently:

"Lack of experience is costly. Our greatest ignorance is not of what we have yet to learn, but of how little we really know. Harry Golden remarked, 'The arrogance of the young is a direct result of not having known enough consequences. The turkey that every day greedily approaches the farmer who tosses him grain is not wrong. It's just that no one has ever told him about Thanksgiving.' You can't avoid making mistakes but you can limit them, grow through them, and not keep making the same ones." UCB (29th April, 2010)

The team was in sombre mood in the early afternoon and I spent some time in prayer alone. After initially deciding against going into the centre, I grabbed my bag and headed for the central bus station. Why else would W have told me where he was going?, I thought.

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