Over the years we’ve faced cigarettes, marijuana, vaping, and several other non-traditional methods of teenage democracy. Petitions have been circulated by the girls exerting their authority using everything from academic journals to Vogue magazine to make the case on smoking. “It’s not that bad. Everyone’s doing it. You don’t understand.” We’ve heard it all. Typically, these items are found tucked away in hidden corners of the home and only revealed when something incredible such as a “deep clean day” arises.
Recently, we met a child and began the inventory of belongings as we talked through what we can and can’t have in a group home. Each item is methodically pulled out of the bag, conversation is had, it is logged in or cast aside, and the next item is discussed. Jeans, got it. Shirts, sure. What size? What color? Shoes. Sure. How many? Ok. We can make it work. Coats. Clear. Socks. Go for it. Hookah…… hold up.
Did you mean to bring a tabletop hookah into a group home? ” What’s wrong with having a hookah? Everyone has one! It’s good for you. People have been using them for years!” We’ve heard it all. As the points of denial are made, the protest becomes unavoidable. I’m sorry, but no.
The loss of a hookah is a deal breaker. “I can’t stay here. This is not fair.. I’m almost an adult!” We mediate for hours and can’t seem to reach a compromise. Who knew that something so simple could create such hostility? Is it really about the hookah? Probably not. Children who enter care often feel a profound loss of power. Items as small as a hair beret can ignite a fire storm when they are lost.
Imagine being a child when a state official enters your home. Then imagine driving away and leaving your family, pets, friends, school, church, and hangouts all in one afternoon. For those of us who work in the foster care system, the tears and tantrums that follow the removal are both necessary and heartbreaking. To outsiders, often the label reads hostile, defiant, or rebellious.
I’m here to tell you that a child who is willing to forego shelter, food, and a public education for a hookah tells the story. The hookah is a reminder of the places and people the child has met along the way. Sometimes the only thing left in a child’s former life is a hookah. Today I challenge you to take a look at where you sleep tonight. If tomorrow someone arrived and within moments you were driving away in a car with a stranger, what would you grab on the way out the door? And if you are the person opening your home to a stranger, find comfort in knowing it’s not about the hookah!
Poet Alexander Pope in the 18th century wrote “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree (Pope, 1734). Children are our twigs. With proper care and time, they too can become a tree that can stand the test of time. Visit our website to see how to get involved. Mentor a child or better yet, come and work with us. I promise, you won’t find a better calling anywhere on earth.