“No joke, my goal in life is to pay taxes”

You know how there’s always a “comedian in the family”? Well, Covenant House Vancouver is no different. And I’m lucky enough to be one of the Youth Workers that gets to spend time with her every day.

Suki is a determined and courageous young person, but also deeply caring and joyful. No doubt, she has the flair of a stand-up comedian in the way she grabs a room’s attention and finds ways to uplift those around her to put smiles on their faces. From the very beginning of her time in our Crisis Program, she would naturally reach out to the other youth when they were feeling low or upset. I even have a very specific, fond memory of a time she noticed her new roommate was eating lunch on her own. Suki got up from her table of friends to go sit next to her. Within minutes, the two of them were howling with laughter – a contagious burst that spread throughout the room. And just like that, her new roommate had made a friend and was glowing with happiness.

Suki showed up at the doors of Covenant House Vancouver because she lost her housing. Her roommate at the time skipped out on their lease, forcing Suki onto the street. Stuck in a tough neighbourhood and surrounded by a lot of bad influences, she decided to move away from her hometown to Vancouver – and ended up here with us. In one of our first meetings, I’ll never forget what she said to me. Amidst our usual back-and-forth banter and discussion, marked with occasional rounds of laughter (it’s inevitable with her), she said suddenly very seriously, “No joke though, my goal in life is to pay taxes.” She continued, “I want to pay taxes because it means that I’m a contributing member of society.”

Time passed from that conversation. But both Suki and I never forgot about her goal. We took it day-by-day, and finally, Suki got back on her feet and found a job that she loved. Thanks to our Housing Support Team, we were able to help her secure a place to rent. We even helped with getting it all furnished.

As she was heading to the door, about to leave us for a life of independence, she turned to me one last time and unfurled a piece of paper from her pocket. With a mischievous grin on her face, she cheekily pointed to the line on her pay stub indicating where the taxes were deducted from her salary. “See, I’m legit now” she said, and another inevitable round of laughter broke out between the two of us.