We are that house. The one that all the teens want to hang out at. We have all the things that attract them. We have other teens, multiple TV's, a porch, and most important food. They have been known to appear in packs and stay for days on end. Sometimes I think they forget where they live or the fact that they are in fact not one of my children. They all refer to me as mom and I call them my strays. We once counted and at that time I had 17 strays all of whom I love dearly.
These teen come from different types of homes and backgrounds, some with better home lives than others. I have been known to stay up late into the night talking with any one of them when they are having a hard time. My heart aches for them sometimes and other times I have to tell them when they are wrong themselves. I guess when you spend so much time with so many kids you begin to realize how bad some of them really have it and how hard the thing they have to over come will be. I just do my best to be a kind, nonjudgmental ear and a warm hug. Maybe in the end that's really why they keep coming back.
I just want to encourage everyone to take time to get to know your children's friends. Make your house the one they want to be at. Be the mother that when in a group someone yells mom and no matter who it is you look. These strays can make you feel as loved and needed as your own kids do. You'll find yourself thinking of them as your own children. And sometimes they tell you they wish they were your children.
I can not express to you the pain you'll feel from time to time when you hold one of these strays in your arms as they cry. When they tell you about their pain or horrible things that have happened to them. Your heart will break and you'll search for the right words and sometimes you won't find them so you just keep hanging on. I'll tell you what though, in that moment you are giving that child exactly what they need.
Then one day out of the blue you'll get a Facebook message saying thank you for being there. Thank you for listening and telling you you're love. that's the moment you realize you made a difference. That in years to come you will have impacted this child's life and they will look back fondly on the things you've told them and pass that onto their children.
This Christmas take a minute to really think about your children's friends. Do you know them? Do you know their back story and their parents? Do you know if they'll have a meal waiting for them when they get home or will they go hungry again? Can you make room at your table for a few more. There are days I have fed 17 or 18 kids. Mind you nine of them are mine.
Be the difference this year. It's really simple. Just take in a few strays!