By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Joy Junction has sheltered thousands of youngsters over its 28 years of existence. Sometimes I wonder where they all are and how life is treating them, but only rarely do I get news of what they’re doing now.
Sally (not her real name) wrote to Joy Junction recently, thanking us for helping her dad, brother and herself a number of years ago.
Saying the thought still makes her heart “swell up,” she recalled the hard times her family experienced while homeless.
She wrote, “I was 10 years old and we would sleep in unsanitary motels, playgrounds, abandoned and unsafe/barely livable buildings. Every day was a constant struggle–trying to get food to eat, bus money for school, hygiene products, clothes, etc.”
After that, they came to Joy Junction. An incident that occurred while Sally was with us, and in fifth grade stuck out in her mind. She said, “I found a pair of socks your organization gave me during Christmas. You had no idea how happy my dad and I were; I was literally crying because it was the best gift I can receive.”
Sally also recalled a variety of other services that Joy Junction donors help us provide. She said, “Joy Junction helped us eat a warm, healthy meal (even on Thanksgiving and Christmas), receive coats for the winter and school supplies.”
She added that the Christmas gifts gave her family hope every day. “I just wanted to say thank you for these services. I am forever grateful.”
Despite his battles with alcoholism, from which he passed away a couple of years ago, Sally recalled her dad as being someone who was “resilient and strong,” and who put his children first. He also encouraged their education, saying that it would help them to live a better life.
All these years later, Sally said she is now a 4.2 GPA student at the University of New Mexico, with a scholarship that will pay for her schooling up to a Ph.D.
She said, “Thank you for helping me live another day! Your services are ingrained in my heart and spirit, which helped me tremendously with my success and happiness.”
Who knows what Sally will accomplish not only in this community, but perhaps for our nation and even the world? A big thank you to those who donate to Joy Junction so we can continue to invest in families experiencing similar circumstances to Sally’s.
Sadly, it’s sometimes so easy to be turned off from helping the homeless by outwardly negative circumstances.
Recently, a woman responded to a post I placed on our Facebook page asking the question, “What’s one fact you know about the homeless population in our city?”
This individual wrote that after seeing a homeless man on the curb talking to the pigeons, she bought him a meal from a fast food restaurant.
She continued, “He thanked me and then asked me for ‘$5 or $10.’ I was willing to buy him a meal, but I did not give him money. As we were leaving, I saw him back on the curb DRINKING A BEER.”
That was where the comment ended. The woman sounded very discouraged, and I can’t help but wonder whether she will ever assist a homeless person again.
I responded to her comment by writing, “Thanks for your kindness. Don’t get discouraged. Who knows what inner torments he was battling?”
It has been my experience after working with New Mexico’s homeless for over 30 years, that people often fall into an inappropriate use of alcohol or drug abuse in an attempt to escape the emotional pain and despair that characterize their lives. Who knows what we would do when faced with similar challenges?
As we come to the end of 2014, let’s determine that we will pray for people, love and not judge them. Such a resolution can do nothing but good. While I am not condoning drug use or alcohol abuse, we are unable to determine what is in the heart of the homeless, and their motivation for inappropriate behavior. And for sure, assisting their parents, will help other “Sally’s” in the making.