Dear Henri, That Was Good – Week 16, Day 1

All_misfit_toys_welcome_here-1Dear Henri,

Thanks for understanding me taking the day off Sunday. I was too tired to sit up at a computer at 11pm, much less think of something pseudo-profound to say. Call it a 'sabbath' of sorts from blogging. 🙂

I drove four and half hours to meet him. I set the alarm early yesterday morning, pulled myself out of bed, drank 2 glasses of water to fill me up in place of breakfast, fed the dogs I was dog-sitting, and hit the highway.

The more time I spend alone, the more I become awkwardly anxious about driving anywhere further than my parents' homestead 40 minutes away. Highways are gruesome in Alberta. Drive whatever speed you want; death is just a side effect. Good grief!

And even with all of my globe-trotting, I've come to learn that I'm really a home-body at heart. I am not only safe in the familiar, but I'm relaxed, clear-headed and hearted, and do my best work while living my best life — and that's at home with everything within walking distance. 


I had not seen this youth for a year and half. He'd been classified as at-risk even while we got to know one another, and things went from bad to worse after he left town. Once in a while I'd hear from him over Facebook, giving me a delicious reason to enjoy a huge, healthy exhale.

"He's alive."

"He's okay for now."

So when he started sending me messages again, letting me know where he was and wanting to maybe have coffee, how could I say no? Yes he was 4 hours away, but still… Highways be damned!

Over the past year… sometimes he had a roof over his head; sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he had a steady job. Sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he dealt with life's blows in healthy ways; sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he told me details about what was going down; sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he sent me a physical address where I could send a care package; sometimes he didn't (sometimes it was because he didn't want to be found, and other times it was because he had no address to send anything to).

But he was and is always a great kid. My love didn't change, even though I had made mistakes in our relationship. I would say the wrong thing or do the right thing out of order. He would say he showed up for such and such a support, when really he was self-harming. You get the idea.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

He was one of those youth that made me question whether or not I was even qualified to be a human being, much less a helper or supporter. I wondered more often than not if it would be better for me to exit his life for good. Other people were more qualified than I. 


I was helping to make a sensational mess. Or at least… that's how I felt. That's how a handful of others made me feel (and I let them for the longest time). Maybe distance helped me gain some better perspective; maybe it just shot my anxiety through the roof; or maybe it wasn't about me at all, but rather time for this young person to choose paths and find healing.

Back to driving…

… I arrived about a half hour early. I found myself sitting in a coffee shop, checking emails, reading a paragraph here and there, and tapping my fingers. As I said, I hadn't had anything to eat yet so I was salivating at the sandwiches and muffins people were walking by with. But we had agreed to eat together, so I checked my hunger and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

At first it was no big deal. I didn't know where he was living, and he hadn't offered his location so transportation to our agreed meeting place could have been playing a role. 

I waited some more.

While I didn't want to think it, I knew that perhaps he just might not show. After all, when someone's a part of the most painful period of your life to date, how likely are you to really want a face-to-face meeting? I shushed myself, put the thoughts out of my head, and repeated: "He'll be here."

And I waited some more.

Finally I took the chance of invading his personal space and called him.

"Hello???" came a groggy voice.

I'd woken him up. It was already past 12:30pm.

D'uh! He's a teenager. This was early morning to him!

Once he'd shaken off his slumber and realized what time it was, he apologized profusely and said he was making a mad dash out of his apartment. Elated, I jumped up from the table I'd been saving for 1.5 hours (much to the frowns of the coffee shop proprietors), and met him halfway.

Same bright, clear eyes; same lively smile; same almost uncontrollable urge to sit still, arms and legs everywhere when telling stories.

Same scars.

Oh yes.

Don't think I didn't notice. While he told me about the apartment he'd found, the job he'd landed, the goal of finishing high school, and whole host of other positives, I could see the cuts on his arms.

Fresh. Relatively.

Still red, but scabbed over. So probably not 'last night' fresh, within a handful of days perhaps. Life was still unmanageable without cutting. And who am I to judge? I know the blissful release of endorphins after causing myself pain. Short-lived euphoria, but euphoria in a dark world. It was a beautiful option.

I battled: "Should I say anything? Should I dig deeper? Should I… should I… should I…?"

We were swapping stories back and forth, laughing over ridiculous things, getting excited over how things were looking up for him. Would pointing out visible cuts wreck the visit? Or was it what he wanted?

In the end, I didn't say a word. I decided to simply be present. His life wasn't in danger. The cuts, while raw, weren't deep. If he wanted to tell me about them, he would tell me in his own time when he was ready.

Like you say, Henri: "The friend who can be silent with us… that is a friend who cares." 

It was a good day yesterday. The long hours of driving were worth the couple hours over quesadillas and pancakes. Livng dangerously with our carbs, we both ordered muffins to top off our meal. The laughter was good, the dreaming was good, being in each other's presence was good. Leaving was hard. He's still so young, you know. He needs so much, despite showing how resilient and intelligent he is. 

But in the midst of the bittersweet, I'm grateful.

Until next time,


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