Friday, January 28, 2011
SAFE ON THURSDAY NIGHT
There were about 30 in the room, all strangers to me, but they knew each other. There was pleasant bantering in the room and an underlying sense of respect for one another. They were part of a group that meets every Thursday night at a local "club" for food and fun.
A safe place for them to gather is provided through a local ministry. It's located in a part of Tulsa that I rarely drive through. Most lived nearby.
The meeting room was clean, painted in bright colors and welcoming. Smells of good food cooking filled the air. The groups motto painted on the concrete wall assured everyone that entered that they were welcome and safe, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Safe is probably the most important word to describe the place and the atmosphere. Safety is what these particular young people long for and need.
The agenda for this meeting was to educate these young people about Human Trafficking. As we went around the room and made introductions they confessed that they knew very little about the subject. They listened respectfully as the presentation was made, the awful facts were flashed before them on the big screen.
I watched their faces as they watched the screen. And we ALL learned much.
I learned that the cold hard facts that lead to Human Trafficking were sitting right before me in bodily form. The young people were brutally honest when asked very personal questions.
Yes, most had been sexually abused as young children, many had already dropped out of school, several had been raped repeatedly, they had come from violent homes, a handful had been homeless already in their young life. They knew prostitutes personally and were pretty sure they'd seen Human Trafficking going on right in their own back yards. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs are essential elements of their daily existence. They didn't wince at the idea of having ever been shot at, but quietly just raised their hands as they remembered that horror. Not many lived with both biological parents.
I listened, respected, and tried to look into their eyes. Some looked down, all but 2-3 avoided contact. A few exuded the bravado of phony confidence, attempting but failing to mask their fears. Some faces held that blank stare of emptiness. They seemed so young....and so old. They are babies and they are broken.
They've experienced way too much for their years. Life has already taught them more than I ever want to know.
They are prime targets for predators that promise love, money, and security only to deliver pain and loneliness. There is no doubt that several I met tonight will never live to see adulthood. I wonder how many will be mourned by any family at all, and how long it will be before they are totally forgotten.
There's a name for these kids: throwaways. They are rejected, rebellious and alone, in dire need of tender care and professional counseling.
Thursday night is the highlight of their week. For a few short hours they are accepted, warm, and safe.
The depravity of man was on display, personified in the eyes of young victims.