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Lessons Learned From Homeless Teens

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It is astounding what one can hear, see, and learn with an open heart and the absence of any prejudice.  I spent several years serving a transitional housing facility of teenagers who were displaced.  It would have been easy to accept the negative, damaging labels assigned to the group.  Yet, at the advice of my mentor and instructor I entered the experience without any pre-conceived notions – my openness was rewarded with lessons that I would like to share here.

Here are a few of the lessons, in no particular order that I gained from the prodigal sons and daughters that I met in those few years of service.

  1. If you do not have a voice or identity in your home, you will choose other means outside of your home to find or prove yourself.
  2. Another person’s, especially your parents’ economic status cannot assure your success in life.
  3. Some comfort zones can be deadly.  (They did not run away from home, but toward more positive circumstances.)
  4. A lack of communication is the saddest and most common factor that results in teens transitional states.
  5. Some parents are to blame for giving their children everything they ever wanted; learn how and when to say no.
  6. Forgiveness does not have to be earned or requested, nor do the forgiven have to know that they have been set free.
  7. Cigarettes are far more addictive than drugs, alcohol, sex or violence.
  8. Children and young adults are far more resilient than most mature adults.
  9. Never judge a person until you have spent time with them or walked with them, and even then it is still wrong.
  10. Humility can be a very expensive lesson.
  11. A strong motivation for persevering is getting up each morning and finding a reason to prove your doubters wrong.
  12. Honor the lost things: innocence, virginity, clean criminal records, and social status – by moving forward.

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