You never know where inspiration and connection will come from. For Thomas* and I, it happened in the back of a taxi cab, on a sunny summer afternoon.
Thomas had just had his wisdom teeth removed and we were heading back to the Covenant House Vancouver Crisis Program. Feeling rather uncomfortable and unable to talk, due to the multiple extractions, Thomas listened attentively to the conversation that Ted, our driver, initiated.
“How long have you been working at Covenant House?” Ted asked.
“Five years.” I replied.
Looking at Thomas and I in his rear-view mirror, Ted said, “That’s awesome! Thank you for all that you do.”
I thanked Ted for his compliment, unaware of what he was about to share with us. As a young man in Toronto, Ted had some challenges and ended up fighting to overcome homelessness. He did not do well on the street and feared becoming entwined in coping/survival mechanisms that included addiction and crime.
After unpleasant experiences at other shelters, Ted went to Covenant House Toronto. At Covenant House, Ted felt respected and valued. He was grateful for three meals a day, a safe place to stay at night, and for the caring staff.
Anecdotally, Ted mentioned that as a young person, meals were not always readily available to him. With a big smile, Ted said that he loved milk, and at Covenant House, he was grateful that it was always available to him. “I drank gallons!” he said. I looked over at Thomas who was holding his jaw in pain from laughing. Thomas shared Ted’s love of milk. He could also relate to Ted’s story, as they shared similar challenges.
Ted summed up his time on the street with a phrase that he learned from a friend, “I was on the streets, but never in the streets.”
He concluded by saying that because of the support, love, and compassion that he received at Covenant House, he had turned his life around. Now he was married with three children and eight beautiful grandchildren. Ted felt that success was not measured by how much money you made, but by how happy that you are in life. He felt that he was a success because he has a lovely family and life-long friends that he made while at Covenant House.
Later that day, after the dental freezing had worn off, and perhaps after some reflection of the conversation from the cab ride, Thomas said to me, “The story that Ted shared was so cool! I wish I could talk to that guy again. He was so inspiring.”
The similarities between Ted’s experiences and Thomas’ life were undeniable. Not only did they share similar struggles, but they both shared the desire to change their situations for the better. Here at Covenant House Vancouver, Thomas receives the support he needs in order to make the changes that he wants to his life.
Perhaps 20 years from now, Thomas will have the opportunity to share his story of success, and love of milk, to youth, who are going through a challenging time. Wherever the inspiration comes from, Covenant House is here to provide the support and love to those youth who wish to change their future for the better.
Shared by Maeve, Youth Worker for our Crisis Program
*Name has been changed to respect youth’s privacy