Yesterday was so strange. I felt like i was in a dream. I was very quiet for most of the day. I just didn’t have all that much to say. But i had allot going on in my head and heart! I had no idea that i would struggle adjusting back to “normal” life. But it is tough. I have always “known” and “understood” street life; mostly from an intellectual point of view. I mean, i have seen it, experienced it through the kids, and even walked beside them in their struggles. Even before these 16 days i think i had a greater understanding for street life than the average person. Whatever average is. But those 16 days gave me the opportunity, and privilege, to FEEL street life. And that i did!
So likewise, over the past eight years i have seen and understood causal factors of kids being on the streets. I see, what are known as the “push” factors, that lead them to leave their communities (poverty, abuse, no sense of belonging, etc.). I also see the “pull” factors, that suck the kids into the street lifestyle and hold them hostage (drugs, freedom, belonging, etc.). I saw and understood those things. I understood that a kid coming from a community where he is not looked after, and maybe does not feel like he has a place to “belong” can find that belonging on the streets, experiencing real “family”. But i always underestimated that aspect. Probably merely because i had never felt it on the level i have now. I mean, i have always had extremely close relationships with the kids on the streets. I could not have imagined them being much closer! But these 16 days showed me a total other level of human relation and interaction.
When you literally depend on each other for basic survival, watch out for each other, break bread together, share close interactions, protect each other, stand up for each other, live in close and continuous communion, and literally spend every waking (and sleeping) hour of the day with one another, you build bonds that i have never found in the “real” world! It takes a relationship to a whole other level of closeness. Before the 16 days i experienced a since of belonging with friends and family; they are all great! So i can only imagine how it must be for a child, who has never experienced a family or belonging before going to the streets, and then came into these relationships that i have just explained. I can now see what a strong hold that aspect, and that aspect alone, can have on a child! I can see how it can hold them captive! Unfortunately, though they experience close bonds, there is a negative side of this “family” and through them the child suffers drug use, abuse of different forms, and other wrongs.
I went to town today and visited everyone. Every single person, from shop keepers to people from the streets, greeted me with the same smile and similar comments; about how clean i looked, how the beard is gone, how the “old Ryan” is back, and so on. But they all also looked at me with a pride in what i had accomplished. Some of them verbalized it. Wise was one of those people. He simply said, “What you did was a great thing.”. I do not say that to bring attention to myself because i only did what i thought i was supposed to do. But i mention it to draw attention to the ongoing support that i have received from my “street” family. And though it was a bit strange seeing them today, knowing that i would return home again, i know that they respect what i did, and know that i will continue to fight on their behalf, walk along side them, and they will continue to be my family…even if it looks a little different than it did for the 16 days.