It was at the second funeral for a teen that our town had attended in less than a year. Looking around, I saw dozens of teens. They weren’t just hurting or sorrowful after losing two close friends in less than a year. They looked lost. Broken. These teens needed something. They needed hope, they needed a place to feel like they belonged, and they needed something to do.
My biggest dream was to give them a safe space to hang out. After Josh and Tai’shaughn died, some of the teens had the opportunity to talk and remember them at friends’ houses, but so many of them had nowhere to really go and feel like they mattered. I wanted to give them a place to hang out. I wanted to make sure they had a place they could call or text if they needed someone to talk to. Really, I wanted to offer up a safe escape from social media, and the constant, relentless noises and pressures these teens face in life. I longed to give these lost teens, hopeless teens, a place where they could hang out with their existing friends and also make new friends, and a place they could learn new skills.
In the first several months of SHIFT really getting off of the ground, I had no idea where it would go or what would happen. I was committed to making sure our teens knew that there was a community that embraced and cared about them, and because of that, SHIFT just kept pushing along. Now, less than a year later, we are working to those goals that we set forth in the beginning, but also expanding to include new ways to reach those teens in the meantime.
I could not bear the thought of sitting at another funeral, a year later, watching our teens continue to look lost, hopeless, defeated, broken. With SHIFT, I know they can feel loved, befriended, confident, and comfortable. With SHIFT, they are a part of something so much bigger. They tell me at events and through email that SHIFT gives them hope. What they might not realize is that knowing that SHIFT means something to them is what really gives me hope.