Jul 3, 2009

Freedom on the street

This is Independence weekend. I do not mean to make light of this important holiday in any way. However, as I thought back about a conversation with a young man yesterday, this blog formed to share with you:

Joey is 22 years old. He lives on the street right now, although he often sleeps on someone's couch. He gets things to eat from food pantry's as often as he can and gets a hot meal twice a week from a local service that specializes in helping young street dependent people. He is appreciative.

Joey has a mental disorder that came upon him when we was in his early teens. This is a time when most youth expect to start becoming independent and exploring what the world will be for them, but for Joey it became a terrible time of despair. It took years for doctors to understand Joey's condition. During that time, Joey had felt freedom at all.

Joey was in the custody of the state almost all his life. I do not know why. The doctors and caregivers I'm sure gave him the best care they could. Joey described being over medicated and feeling dead but being alive. Joey described being under medicated and feeling simply insane and not being able to do anything about it. It has taken Joey almost 10 years to learn how he needs to feel to be just right and as normal as possible. He respects his medications and takes them carefully.

Joey lived in the foster care system until he was 18. And then he accepted continuing care in some form or another until recently. As he matured and gained balance in his life, he found that he really needed to experience freedom and being on his own. That has meant sacrifices... hard sacrifices. He has given up everything he once owned. His possessions fit in a backpack. His meals come from the nest charitable source. His bed from the next friend to take him in. He endures this because he knows it is important to get to know himself and his own capabilities. He didn't plan to be on the street, but he found that he simply didn't have the means to live anywhere else.

Joey is also taking important and wise steps for the longer term. He is applying for government benefits because he has come to understand it is very unlikely he can ever hold a job. Until it comes, he waits.

The thing Joey really wants to experience in his new freedom is the ability to date. He is not looking for a one night stand or just a good time. He is looking for his perfect match... someone to love and care for all his days. He finds it very hard to date while being street dependent, and he understands why women are reluctant to go out with someone who has no means at all.

Joey remains strong in his faith. He knows that God has a plan for him. He believes resolutely that God has created a partner for him, one who will walk alongside him all his life. One whom he can love even as his own self.

I applaud Joey for exploring and understanding his freedom. I applaud him for the courage to face who he is and explore that. It very clearly means personal sacrifice for him. None of us are independent -- in fact we are possibly more directly dependent on one another in this time and age than any other in the past. (Check how the poor and fraudulent behavior of a few effects all of us in this recession if you doubt it.) However, we enjoy a condition that we call freedom which gives us safety and peace in our interdependence. I wish that for all of you and for Joey. God bless!