While volunteering with Nature Nurture whose pioneering work focuses on the support and nurture of vulnerable youngsters, I worked with one lad who ran away. The following account is an attempt at grasping a little of his pain.
You’re following me and I want you to, but I don’t. I feel so bewildered by where my feet and senses are taking me and you’re there like an irritable but familiar fly.
I want you gone, but this world scares me, though I’ll never let on, I’ll just use my mouth as a weapon.
Yet I liked on the bus, I like what I made with you and you appreciate me, so I’ll test and see if you, like all the others are repelled by my flak, my cruel words, my rejection. GO ON! REJECT ME! Just like the whole world says it does.
But through the shouting in my head, gentle words, “It’s ok, you’re ok, we’re here for you.”
Yet the noise in my head shouts, “NO! NOONE IS! Not even mum….”
Alone, I have to survive. I will spit and hurt, yet I desperately want someone to understand, coz I don’t, and the fear inside is threatening to swamp me and I don’t know what to do, so I flail at this person who has chosen to just plod after me, wherever I go. I threaten you, I shout at you and you cry, you don’t say no, you don’t shout, you just say, “I’m with you. I just need to make sure you’re safe.”
I hit you with words, I try and make you react like all the others but you don’t… you respect my space…you don’t leave me…. you’re there to make sure I do get over that road safely…and I can’t tell you that I’m glad… but I eventually stop and I barricade myself into the park and you don’t interfere, you just wait and I feel tense, not knowing what now?
Then he comes, calm, reassuring and understanding me, letting me know I can be free to choose, but allowing me the option to get back in the bus if want it.
Then you withdraw and the door is open, I know it is not a trap, there is no anger here, only a calm certainty that this is safe. What I needed to do I have done and I feel relief that I can now be cocooned.
I take out my red pouch. I try it on my head again, She had laughed when I did that earlier. Will she laugh again? She still looks sad.
I get to the door. I hover, waiting to see what they do. No. It is still calm. Safe. No anger. I don’t have to be afraid. There’s no recrimination. Just peace. Calm.
I twiddle my pouch as he gets in to drive and she climbs in the back.
I hear as if from a distance, how much he has liked that I’ve come and how he wants me again. He wants me again. He wants me again.
He is sad I can’t come to the last week. I am too.
As I leave the bus, she says, it’s been good to have me. It’s been good to have me.
They mean it.
There is a rim of light in my darkness. I will hold on to it.
I felt your fear today. I desperately wanted you to know, there was no blame attached. Just a longing to keep you safe and I’m for you. Not against you.
I have cried rivers for you, gentle lad. You are so full of true goodness and generosity but with so little affirmation and safety in your familiar ground.
You have much and you deserve much and as I felt your vulnerability today, I longed to hold you.
But I can’t, you are a fighter and it’s so lonely. You have had to learn about words and control and rejection and fear. And unconditional love is scary and will be tested for its endurance capacity. You will fight it, try to break it and tonight I feel so broken, but it is your brokenness that makes me ache so deeply.
The thought of you with no place to turn, no one to comfort you as a lad needs. Never knowing the warmth and security of loving arms that just accept you.
And trying hard to be the macho boy that you are not.
I see your skin, red raw, reacting to the stress that you so desperately try to contain and cope with.
You have managed to laugh today, to have such fun, to share, chat and be happy with other children. It’s great.
Come back laddie, we care deeply about you.