Shine Bright Like a Diamond . . .
It’s human nature to want to follow something brilliant and be inspired, to somehow let that magnificent light touch us for even just a small second and bless us. Normally, our eyes land on the obvious—a movie star donating to the underserved, a guru who leads you to happiness, or notable people receiving praise. What we are often unaware of is the absolute brilliance of the advocate who shines in the shadows of his or her agency, in our own neighborhoods, day after night after day after night after day after . . . In Bangor, Maine, there is such a great light, a small cluster of diamonds that shines on the underworld of homeless and runaway teens: the advocates of the Shaw House.
In May of 2011, I was invited to come to the Shaw House and read from my book and present on the topic of “throwaway” teens. Afterward, the team—passionate, casual, caring, and highly trained—gave me the tour of their humble shelter. They showed me the dorms, kitchen, classrooms, and game room—much needed places of safety and healing. Pride and promise, if not luxury, emanated from every room, and with each step, each space, I was also lifted up and blessed.
My tour ended with a walk along the banks of the Penobscot River, where the remnants of several homeless camps littered the pathway. Our mission: to pass out a meal voucher to each stray teen—no questions; no judgment. I liked this.
Against a sudden rush of wind, I stood in my tracks and looked up to see the Shaw House team standing at the foundation of an old shack in a moment of silence. I asked them what I already knew. “What happened here?”
“This is where we lost Holly—murdered by an older man,” they whispered. “We almost had her safe. We almost had her. And we miss her.”
There is a darkness that follows a lost teenager who has no tools, no means to stay safe. It threatens to consume him or her through hunger, exposure, abuse, human trafficking, violence, and suicide.
Today, I’d like to spotlight the great work of the advocates of the Shaw House. To tell them they are wonderful—tell them I can see how much these kids depend on them and, deep down, how much they love them.
Kudos, Shaw House! Keep on shining bright like that diamond!
If you want to spotlight an advocate, agency, or someone else who shines in your neighborhood, please e-mail me at Dawn@EmpowerTeens.com.