As you have probably already noticed, our Welcome Home YWS Campaign is in full swing. Our tag line has great meaning for me. “When no one is expecting them home…we are.” This is truly at the core of our work and it has far greater meaning during the holiday season. While the holidays bring great joy, for many the holidays bring great sadness borne out of loneliness and despair.
It is common to hear people talk about how the holidays are about family. This message seems to be ubiquitous this time of year. I’ll change the narrative and suggest that when we say family it is truly about belonging and being important to someone else. I have heard from our residents how tough it is over the holidays. But I have also heard about how meaningful the support of YWS is and how much it matters. YWS is a place for people to belong, to be part of something larger than yourself. This applies to our residents, our staff team, and the hundreds of volunteers who make amazing happen each day.
The holidays tug on our heart strings and I find myself more deeply thoughtful about how much it means to tell someone how great it is to see them that day. YWS is home for so many. It has been home for over 30,000 youth since we began 32 years ago. That is the population of a small town. Or a very large family of people who found a place to connect, a place to belong, and a place where someone was always expecting them home.
On a personal note I would like to acknowledge the passing of Dr. Richard (Dick) Meen. He was a friend and significant mentor of mine who helped to guide my thinking and approach to working with young people. He saw them as capable, strong, and resilient. He also saw young people as someone to learn from; if you let them. He said something once that has never left my mind. Dick said, “Zero empathy plus zero compassion equals zero treatment.” He was so very right.