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Rick's Love and Grave in spite of the Hardships
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By Gil Clelland

We walked into the classroom on the basement floor of the high school last week just as "O Canada" echoed over the old speaker system. A few students were chatting as they sat on desks, a few looked up to see us enter, most of the twenty students in the classroom were texting or just sitting quietly. I had been asked to come in and share about "Leadership - what works on the streets" to a grade 11 and 12 'Leadership' class. I had spoken to Rick about joining me.

I have known Rick for all seven years that I have been working in downtown London. He was the first person I got to know. Growing up, he went to church every week and found solace in serving. But with his family, Rick was never good enough. He knew that he let down his father all the time. In his teen years, the clashes grew more frequent with his parents. At age eighteen, Rick was homeless. And as he described it to me, the streets change you. He soon learned to put up 'walls.' Don’t let anyone in. Don't trust…or else you get hurt. After a few years, Rick had an apartment. Yet, emotionally, he had shut down. He was housed but homeless. A home is among other things a place of safety, community, love, support, and direction in life. Many of our friends, like Rick, remain homeless long after they have an apartment. But every now and then, Rick opens up, sees his purpose, and for a minute or two, feels like he belongs. Perhaps we found all that one hour last week at a high school.

In the classroom, we were introduced by our friend, one of the students who had invited us. I spoke for a bit - chatting about poverty and the effects of poverty on the mind. Then Rick shared. Not for very long. He opened up with a little of his past and two quick stories. Rick's stories from his own experiences on the streets were vivid and real. At that moment, there was a change in the classroom. The students woke up. For the next hour and even continuing after the bell rang declaring that class was over, the students were engaged. What can be done? How can we learn more? And what does this mean for me today? Amazing thoughts and questions. As the students left the class upon dismissal, we received lots of handshakes with “Thank-you's,” a few anecdotes, and a grade 12 boy named Theo wept and hugged Rick as he recalled how close it was for him - a few less people helping him in his shattered past and the streets would have been his home too.

We sat in silence as we took the bus back downtown. It was good. Rick's life had touched another group. His grace and love in spite of the hardships had poured through his words. And I prayed once again that the grace and love that Rick shared would soak in just a little more...so he would know he is already good enough.






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