In a small, quaint town in southern Oregon amidst the tall Redwoods and Evergreens, lies many young people silently forgotten and cast away. Here lies those under age, seemingly without a hope, a rhyme or a reason to survive.
I must say Iíd never met homeless kids before. It was a shock to see them with torn blankets, undernourished bodies, rag-tied hair and depression written all over their faces. Their life had yet to begin and it already dealt them a heavy blow that shattered any hopes of a life worth living.
It began when they were too young to have much to say or posses the ability to get a job and help make ends meet, yet old enough to do more than their fair share of chores thus carrying the burdens of family poverty. They could not escape it, run from it or hide. It sneaked upon them like a bow hunter just sighting a four point buck in early autumn. The leaves quickly began falling, their forest green colors changing to bright reds, burnt oranges and finally deadened browns. Winter came and showed its true essence in everything it touched. Jobs became scarce for their mom or dad, and paychecks remained small and well under the minimum monthly budgets needs to sustain a family. The eldest, about 15 years old, was expected to leave home and care for themselves or contribute to the family by quitting school and working hard to bring home an average buck or two. Most left home and began a life on the streets, praying for a glimpse of hope to come their way, or to stumble upon an opportunity to make a life for themselves. Neither of which normally happened, so they waited under an open bridge, their own shelter, their new home.
They found food by digging in the nearest trash cans, a public park in broad daylight, or someoneís resting burn pile. Their clothes were mere hand me downs from one another, the ones they wore on their backs when they began this journey of survival. Shared amongst eachother, washed in the river from time to time and dried in whatever harsh environment they found themselves in at the time. The bridges served as their meeting places, protected shelters and humble homes.
They had one another, and for some, this was their family. Each one knew grief, struggles, and hopelessness lurked ahead of them.
The townspeople overlooked them, scoffed at their ways and cast them from their care. This town cared little about raising children. There was no time to stop and share a smile, offer a bite to eat, warm clothing to wear or a place to lie their heads out of the fierce elements. It was a city of the older generation. A prideful one at that. There were friends to shop with, buddies to share fish stories amongst and lawns to keep perfectly manicured. The cars were polished to perfection as they sat in garages looking similar to palaces. If they had pets, these babies wore collars of distinction, decked out with diamonds and jewels and names neatly written in script around their necks. They were treated as royalty, just like their owners lived in castle type homes made of beautiful brick and stone.
Future hopes and dreams were dashed to pieces when they left the only home they knew, be it however so small and quaint, having shared an obscure room with siblings usually and laying their heads upon pillows leaning upon cracked walls that let even the faintest of drafts through. Any future dream of finishing school was quickly dismissed as the reality of their lives hit them with full force. This was their new lives, their new homes, new family. The homeless life many called it, but for these cast away kids, it was all they had to hold onto. That they did with everything within them. They managed to break a smile and looked ahead to living and breathing the next day. They thanked God for that dayís sunshine or rain and put another day behind them. For these homeless kids, life felt, at times, like it was over with. It seemed that there was nothing left living for, but somehow, one would manage to hold another up, remind them of a purpose for them here and now, and shed a trace of hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. The scripture, Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future". Too often these words seem written for everyone else in the world but them.
If you think they donít exist, think again. Just as the trees stand boldly and sway swiftly when the coastal winds blow. So it is with these under age wee ones. Trying to make a life of their own, hanging on by threads sometimes to their failing health, and mustering up belief in a world that embraces them not. Let us remember them and cast an ear their way. Take a moment to see their needs, feel their pain and give to them the gift of hope. This is all any human is entitled to, be them ever so young and frail or old and strong. This should be the ways of a heavenly place in the small town of Grants Pass in a most blessed environment as Oregon. A place saturated with beautiful mountains that seem to reach the heavens with their beauty and endless oceans that stretch as far as the eye can see. Where hope should lie in the hearts of each person and desperation should never be known to them.
written by Denise Spooner
November 9, 2005
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