*Written by SYM Direct Service Intern Haley*
While discussing which path we should take on a recent activity to Discovery Park, one of our youth asked us if we wanted to venture down to the beach through a less traveled path that he knew of. He warned us that we would be going through sand and down a hill, but we felt up for the adventure and followed his lead. It felt like we were scaling a cliff while we trekked through sand and slippery mud, and while I was worried about slipping and knew there was a much easier path, there was so much value in letting him lead the way and show us something we didn’t know about. Moments of fear that we were going to slip and fall down the whole hill turned into opportunities for us to check in with each other and provide support for one another.
We were almost to the bottom of the hill when we heard our fearless leader say, “Well…this used to lead to the beach, but it looks like the tide is a bit higher now…” It turns out that the tide was much higher than the last time he had been there and after a quick look we knew that we definitely weren’t going to make it to the beach from that spot. However, that path did have something to offer us. It led us to a single rope swing hanging above the water. With some hesitation and encouragement from youth, I decided going on the rope swing was worth the risk of falling in the water. Soon enough, 3 out of 4 of us had conquered our fears and taken a stab at swinging over the water. There was a joy in the air as we all tried out the swing and laughed with one another when each person went. I was reminded of what a childlike, but joyful thing it was to find excitement in swinging.
At some point during our walk back to the car, the question of what home really means got brought up. This is a question I personally have been reflecting on for some time now. One youth was quick to say to staff, “well you guys have a home,” but when I asked the difference between a house (or permanent place to sleep in) and home, the conversation shifted. We then all started talking about what makes a place home and the times or places in our lives where we can say we definitely felt at home. Some of us shared about feeling at home at the place they grew up in, some talked about how they felt at home when they were with one specific person, and others questioned how we can ever feel fully at home in one location when we have called multiple places home. Toward the end of the conversation, there was a realization that some of us knew what home was to them for sure, and others were still searching for it (staff and youth included). While staff’s housing situations are very different than the young people we serve, we created some common ground by acknowledging we all have experienced this search for home.
SYM’s mission is to use life-skills, resources and relationships to provide hope and healing in youth’s lives. It was a beautiful thing to see how this simple Discovery Park activity was a source of that hope and healing that we so desire for the young people we serve. The laughter through trekking down the hill and joking with each other was a source of healing – it allowed us to forget about our worries for a bit and reminded us of the joy that comes from community and fun. Swinging over the water and searching for walking sticks for the way up was a source of healing – it provided us a time where we could engage in silly things rather than focusing on all of the serious struggles around us. Lastly, the conversation about home was a huge source of hope – it broadened all of our perspectives on what it means to be home and reminded us all that home is something worth searching for.