“Responding with absolute love and compassion at every opportunity”

This morning, the youth seemed more upbeat than usual.  I noticed the Shelter lounge had many Christmas decorations up that were not there yesterday.  One youth came to me and asked if I liked what I saw.  He was referring to the decorations and lights he and a co-resident put up last night.  I said, “Of course I like it, it is beautiful!” At that point I saw a home-made “Thank You” card on the table.  I asked who it belonged to, and the staff said it was made by a group of residents on order to give thanks to the three residents who decorated the lounge. 

The youth who put up the decorations were delighted!  There were lots of notes signed by the youth in the thank-you card.  It was a very sincere expression of gratitude, thanking the youth for their efforts to make the shelter Christmassy. Most of the comments were about how beautiful and nice the decorations turned out, but here were also a couple of notes about how some of the youth “didn’t like Christmas”.

As I was heading back to my office, I had mixed emotions; delighted on one hand, for the decorations and “thanks”, yet saddened on the other, as I wondered about the memories that some of our youth have that make them dislike the Christmas season. Christmas is not particularly a joyous occasion for some of our youth.  Some of them have been forced to live on their own at a very young age – abandoned and longing to spend time with people who are absent form their lives.

Our staff are always sensitive around the needs of our youth, but at this time of year especially, those needs can grow in complexity. Youth become emotional, and we try to be more present than usual, tuning into these needs and responding with absolute love and compassion at every opportunity.

Decorations in our Crisis Shelter