Today, my husband on his day off, and myself will be headed out to conquer our new normal. Since beginning Empower Youth in 2015, our normal has really changed. Our Friday “normal” was heading over to the Feed Mill in Felicity for the best coffee in the land, followed by picking up our granddaughters and heading to a park or Chuck E Cheese, and finally ending with lots of baking where chocolate chips abound. In between all this, I would take a few calls, make a few facebook posts, and send in the media for the weekend to the church (remember my paid gig is a children’s minister.)
Today’s normal includes dropping off donations in 3 different depots because we still don’t have enough storage for the Spring yardsale items, the summer camp items, the pillows for the pillow project, the Christmas gifts for the Christmas project, and o yeah the food for 250 students that we feed every weekend. We start off the day by checking the Freestore Foodbank online inventory to see if any ravioli showed up at a way reduced price. Then, we are off and running with a van or vans full of items to sort.
But with all of that … our new normal is exhausting… our new normal is rewarding… our new is heartbreaking…
Our new normal has placed us in the middle of students having adult problems. Our new normal has led us to meet a young 10 year old boy who blurted out in the middle of leadership class that he was raped. Our new normal means that we had parents complain because their children had never even heard that word. Our new normal means we actually scolded the boy for disrupting the class, only to find out he was indeed raped. That’s my new normal. I can take a break and leave my new normal anytime I want. This young ten year old cannot. He will never get a break from his new normal. Our new normal is explaining to a ten year old rape victim that we care about him and that when he speaks we will take him seriously. Our new normal is watching another family leave our program because their child heard the word “rape” in a small group.
Our new normal has led us to great friendships with families we’d normally never have the chance to meet except through Empower Youth. We see progress. We see students making good choices. It’s pretty amazing what a relationship will do to give folks a hand and foot hold to climb out of poverty. A food bag on the weekend that leads to a little extra for Christmas that leads to a week at camp… Some of our families keep on climbing and we eventually don’t see them as much because they have moved out of “ICU” and into “Stepped Down Care” and finally they are on their own. We have contact through facebook and we cheer them on. With other families, they are right out of “ICU” and into the “Stepped Down Care” and yet the hold of generational poverty is so strong that they are pulled right back in. Eventually, they slip away from us completely. Our new normal is a day of joy for those who make it and heartache for those who have slipped away.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and my husband and I are going to try for our normal traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. We will eat at 1pm this year because I just can’t seem to get it all done by noon. We will load our house with a bounty of food, family, and thankfulness. But I’m afraid after 2 years of Empower Youth even thanksgiving will be a new normal. And… that’s ok… cause that’s our new normal.
If Empower Youth has done anything for anyone, I pray it has actually made the new normal for those we serve– better. I pray for those who volunteer or speak on our behalf that they have a new normal like we do– hearts wrenched, hearts ready to serve more, hearts thankful for every opportunity, and most importantly hearts that will not become jaded. There is much work to be done.