Some teens wrapped up their time this week at the residential youth home where I conduct a youth group. We said our goodbyes, wished each other well, and promised to remember and pray for each other. These are happy/sad times. Happy because they've completed the treatment they needed, problems have settled down at home, or they've found a good foster placement. Sad because I'll miss them. We've spent months getting to know each other, tossed around the deep questions of life, built trust, processed problems, and had some fun, too. I think I learn as much from them as they learn from me.
Sometimes I wish they would stay around forever, because I worry about them. How are things at home? Are they keeping up in school? Yet I realize that youth grow up and move on. I'm privileged to accompany them for a few steps on the journey. There will have other guides further down the road. I'll get acquainted with some new faces in a few days, and the process will begin anew.
Inside my attendance book is a copy of I Shall Not Pass This Way Again, an old poem by Joseph A. Torrey. It kind of summarizes my attitude about the happy/sad days of my youth work:
Through this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass.
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I may do,
To my suffering fellow men
Let me do it while I can
Nor delay it, for t'is plain
I shall not pass this way again.
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups.