Well so much has happened since the last time I posted but I have had a lot of difficulty thinking about how to write about it all. The first problem is that I want to respect the privacy of all these guys and as their trust in me grows and they share so much more with me, I feel like I can’t in good conscience publish the stories and experiences that are most affecting me. The second problem is that the majority of them are learning English and can understand my posts now! My strategy is to write more generally about themes and patterns I am seeing but it still takes some fancy footwork.
The first theme I want to talk about is this idea of changing people’s currency. Many of the guys I talk to come from childhoods that have for various reasons taken them out of the traditional family situation. They have, from a young age, had to fend for themselves in sad or difficult moments without the comforting hugs and words from a mother or father. Those moments when they weren’t alone, sometimes they were surrounded by other youths who teased them and poured salt in their wounds. Most gained a hatred of showing weakness and tears and built up a wall around their hearts. Some have seen and/or done terrible things, which has further hardened their shell. They see their worth in being strong, furious, immovable and fearless. Those that consume drugs or alcohol, see their worth also in having a high tolerance, always being ready to party and getting away with being altered in inappropriate situations. Their social groups reinforce these characteristics and values and most people who challenge their convictions are held at an arms length or, more often than not, written off and kicked out of their lives. Over the past 2 years, I have slowly but surely gained more trust with definite periods of the silent treatment due to resentment or embarrassment. I am accused of being too direct with my comments, out of touch and straight up crazy.
My fundamental goal is to show these boys that they can live sincere lives that they are actually proud of. They don’t have to keep representing a particular lifestyle or code. They can fearlessly learn their individual strengths and weaknesses and start making tangible decisions that will change they way they feel about themselves and about other people. I repeat that refrain a lot, “you can feel different, it’s possible” They believe they were born with a tendency towards resentment, anger and impatience. They think their worth is in owning those traits and being the hardest and most “street” person. I want them to start converting their currency. Don’t celebrate the fact that people fear you, celebrate if people respect you. Don’t celebrate the fact that you have a high tolerance for drugs and alcohol, celebrate if you have a life you don’t need to escape from. Don’t celebrate the fact that you are all alone, celebrate if you have a relationship with God and a list of people you can call on for support. But its scary to start looking for their self-worth in other things. The hole they are in starts feeling more like a cozy cave that keeps them safe. They definitely suffer in their cave but it’s a familiar suffering and venturing outside of that familiarity is scary and unsettling. Its like when you travel or move to a new country. You know the new currency has worth where you are living but it’s hard to conceptualize it at first. You start by translating everything back to your old currency and constantly comparing but over time your new currency starts to take on real value and you can finally live fully within your new reality. That conversion is what I am working towards.
Thankfully I am learning the ropes here more and have a great Church that I love and the boys aren’t scared off by. I have also found some great Honduran-run rehab facilities that are doing awesome work and are able to take on some of my guys once there are ready to accept help. Currently I have 3 in rehab (Proyecto Victoria) which means $450/month for 6 months or a total of $2,700 out of my pocket and I have one who is in need of some professional therapy in the home he is living in (Mision Rescate) which will be a one-time cost of $900 for 30 sessions.
If you are interested in helping please consider making a donation towards these boys futures. I wish I could in good conscience share videos of some of our conversations with all of you. It would blow you away how sweet and tender-hearted these young men are but they are imprisoned in a life-style that they have cultivated over their short 18-23 years of life. Lets set them free so that they can fulfill their destiny to be men of God, citizens of the world and integral members of a strong family. The first $900 raised will go towards the therapy sessions with an addiction specialist and beyond that ($901-3,600) will go towards the monthly rehab costs (ie my credit card debt).