Hey, friends! My name is Shannon, and I’ve spent the last three summers living at Thornwell as an intern for volunteers, ministry, and activities.

I think it would be easy to sit on Thornwell’s campus and feel surrounded by the kind of unfathomable pain that renders us all unable to speak, unable to stand, unable to breathe. But, if you can somehow find the courage to sit down in this world of unfathomable pain, compassion may allow you to look without turning away. Once you start to look–to see, to listen–you begin to discover a world that constantly whispers, “It’s a good life.” In the kitchens and backyards and basketball courts, you discover the way joy permeates this life we have been given, even amidst the realities of trauma, abuse, and neglect.

Thornwell proves to me over and over and over again that there is boundless love in the world. When I walk across campus, the same teenagers whom society has stereotyped negatively yell, “Hey, Miss Shannon!” and run over to give me hugs. They ask about my day, while they are bearing the unfair weight of their own. There is goodness in this place and in its people.

Sometimes, a difficult concept for us to grasp is the temporal nature of foster care, this idea that while Thornwell is a home, it was only ever meant to be a temporary one. A lot of us are quick to associate “temporary” with a wide range of negative experiences and emotions. We run away from temporary because the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t seem worth it, or we’re scared of the inevitable hurt accompanied with goodbye. When you start to think about it, though, that seems like a pretty silly reason to run away from something. Of course it’s temporary. Everything is. Temporary doesn’t make trauma any less ugly; it doesn’t make people any less remarkable.

Temporary doesn’t make trauma any less ugly; it doesn’t make people any less remarkable.

When I look at Thornwell, I see temporary, and I see good. I also see a lot of hurt people, a lot of hearts longing for community, for acceptance, for love. That could be discouraging, except I also see the elation in moments when they find it. I remember all the moments in my own life when I finally found it, and I can see in their eyes when they find it, too. When someone looks at you and says, with their words or their actions, “I see all of you. I love you, and I’m staying,” it changes everything. Here, they have the opportunity to discover that life-altering love. I’ve seen them find it, and I’ve seen them give it.

Friends, love is never wasted. It wasn’t wasted 2,000 years ago when Jesus shared his last meal with Judas, and it won’t be wasted any time you decide to love your neighbor, whether or not you think they love you back.

 

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