We see the hope and potential in every young person

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth


When Jason first came to the youth centre he seemed to fit right in.  He was easy to talk to and it certainly appeared that it was easy for him to make friends as well.  With a skateboard almost always in his hands, that is when he wasn’t riding it, it was easy to tell he identified himself as a “skater” though he didn’t seem to have a lot of friends from that same community.

Over time it became obvious that Jason didn’t have a lot of close friends at all and even though he remained “friendly” with the other teens from the Youth Centre, we quickly realized that he preferred to keep others at a distance. When it was just games or hanging out he seemed to be okay, but whenever the conversations went deeper he’d go silent and retreat into himself.

After months, maybe even a year of giving Jason the necessary space to develop trust he took a leap of faith:  He rolled up on his skateboard, sat down beside me on the curb, and asked if he could tell me something. Recognizing the window of opportunity, I of course welcomed the conversation, and assured him that he could tell me anything.

From there, over the next hour and in the midst of tears, he told me that his dad had left his mom for another woman when he was 10.  Even though his dad said nothing would change with their relationship, very quickly things did, and it was soon a rare occasion that Jason would see his father.  As a result, he began to find it hard to make and keep close friends.  It wasn’t noticed as much in elementary school but when he entered high school, he quickly found himself with few friends, and even then distanced himself from them.  While no one would have considered him a “loner” he certainly felt that he was.  He then confessed to me that he had been harming himself for well over a year, using a lighter or a cigarette to burn himself in places people couldn’t see.  Though he acknowledged that “self-harm” wasn’t a good way to deal with his emotions, he said it did help to numb the pain inside, at least temporarily.

That first conversation, the first brave and bold step, was the beginning of an ongoing conversation toward better things for Jason.  With the support of some key people, including a few volunteers from the Youth Centre, he began to talk more often about his life and the difficult emotions he wrestles with.  Though it took some time and convincing, Jason agreed to visit his family doctor and is exploring the possibility of some ongoing mental health challenges as well. Even though he has had some “moments of weakness” he no longer burns himself as a way of coping and he continues to find a place of belonging at the Youth Centre.  His relationship with both staff and students continues to grow and we’re praying his relationship with God will soon do the same.

Jason is no longer hiding!  He is finding hope!


Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

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