Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Reflections on three young neighbor girls...

I moved into the south end 8 years ago, to learn and try to help end human trafficking. I knew i had a lot to learn, I knew it was about life and community, I knew my neighborhood mattered, but i wonder, did I really love my neighbors, especially the little ones?
I moved into a row house built in the 1860s right up against a relatively new development of affordable housing called the Villa Victoria. There were kids in lots of houses, young boys and girls, but tonight the lives of three young girls are on my mind.
One of these grew up across the plaza, basically raised by her great-grandmother (yes, that's right). She came to church growing up, I have known her since she was about 7? And now she is a lovely young lady in high school... what will her story be? She hasn't been coming to church for a while now, last i heard her grades were good and she was winning awards and playing sports, but high school can throw you for a loop, especially when you are a young woman of color in a Boston Public High School.
What will her story be?  All this time I have been working to try to better understand human trafficking, work to change laws, to impact the community, to make a difference... have i made a difference in her life? Is she "Safe" from trafficking? Have I even talked to her about it, really? What's hurting? How is she doing?
I saw her today, walking with a friend. She said hi, but didn't really want to talk. Was she being shy or...? I wonder, and I pray that she is doing ok. I pray that she is pursuing her dreams and aspirations, holding her head high and demanding respect, and not getting pulled down by those who would see her fail, who would want to use her for their own twisted games and pleasures.
I saw another young lady this evening, and I hardly recognized her, until she waved at me with the shy smile she has always had. I first met her 8 years ago when she was probably about 5 or 6, running around the parking lot with the other kids, playing baseball and basketball with the broken hoop, we would draw with chalk and talk about life, but she was always very shy and wouldn't say too much, and now she is 13 or 14 -growing up so fast. I haven't seen her around as much the last year or two. As I was leaving EGC tonight, unlocking my bike, she walked by towards the house where she grew up and waved and exchanged a quick hello.
I wonder how she is doing. Is she safe? Does she know how beautiful and amazing she is? Does she have anyone in her life cheering her on?
Another beautiful young lady who grew up just a block away, is now missing - she has been missing for over a month. I met her when she was 14 and was just starting to run away and skip school. She is beautiful, kind, gentle, a great writer, and a deep thinker, and yet her past is painful, and her anger and trauma and friend group influence and her dad's history and current life and connections with exploitation drew her in, despite all her amazing, loving, desperate mom and the leaky lifeboat of DCF tried to do. She went silent.
Could i have helped? Could i have done more? What did she need at 14, 15, 16 to change this path?! So many different people tried to intervene, her mom most of all, and yet now, we don't know, but she might be in the same situation her mom was once in. My heart breaks to think of it, and yet I also find myself tuning it out, because i don't know what to do to help. What could i have done? Anything? What can i do now?
All three of these young girls grew up within a few blocks from my house. Perhaps others just like them are a few blocks from yours. How do we create spaces to be present with the young people in our lives, to ask good questions, to be safe, to be trustworthy, to let them know we believe in them and that they matter.
Time to get out and play! 

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