Everyone has problems. We all do. And these problems vary in severity, magnitude, and circumstance from person to person. That’s life—conflict and resolution—a constant struggle to do the right thing despite the obstacles life seems to enjoy throwing at us, impeding us, and trying to prevent us from achieving. And most of the time these problems are easily surmountable, like “how will I pay my phone bill next month?” or “how will I fit jury duty into my work schedule?” and these are problems we face and overcome with little or no thought because we understand that they are part and parcel of daily life—that they are what comprise a normal life. They do not cause us to fall apart; they do not reduce us to a sniveling mess hugging our knees as we sit on the floor in a pool of our own tears, because they are to be expected. The solutions to these relatively simple problems are apparent and easily implemented.
But what about those times when life throws a curveball, a real zinger that comes from out of nowhere and leaves the person it hits shocked and stunned and unsure of how to proceed? What happens when the mother of a fourteen year old boy decides to up and walk out of the family. or when a rebbi, a man who is looked up to and respected, even revered by his students and to whom his students turn for guidance, takes advantage of his student’s trust and respect and abuses a child, leaving him scarred and hurt and utterly uncertain about life. What happens when a parent, the person who is supposed to love his child more than himself, supposed to provide for his child, supposed to share the child’s euphoria after passing a very difficult gemara test, wipe his son’s tears after he breaks an arm at baseball practice, raise his son in accordance with the Torah, and properly equip his son to handle the world and all of its challenges, abuses his child, beats him and degrades him, humiliates him and emotionally eviscerates him. What then.
The aforementioned examples happen more often than we in the community would care to admit, and when it does it leaves behind devastated crater of a human being, a walking shell devoid of certainty, a scarred individual who feels cast out and abandoned, left to fend for himself in this harsh and terrible world. Because that is how the world seems to someone at such a young age, especially someone so hard done by. The world seems cruel and harsh and unforgiving with danger lurking around every corner.
For most people, however, the world is a beautiful place full of love, beauty, and hope; moments shared, first steps, new beginnings and fresh opportunity. With such an outlook on life it’s a bit difficult to identify with the complete inverse—with those who view life as a battle. Because that’s unfortunately what life is for so many kids, a battle. Life is a fight rather than an experience, and that mentality often leads to crime, violence, and substance abuse.
When the battle becomes too much and the odds insurmountable, the only recourse is retreat, which usually comes in the form of drugs and alcohol. For a relatively small price one can buy a temporary reprieve from the battle and become numb, transporting himself to a world where none of it matters. But that’s just temporary, end eventually life encroaches upon this place of temporary solitude, and more pills or injections or lines are needed to reach that quiet place until one day the retreat isn’t temporary.
Finally at that point, when its already too late, does the rest of the world realize what was happening just under its nose and that it can just as easily happen to their son, or their daughter—to their niece or nephew, and they cast about for anything, anyone that can help avoid the seemingly inevitable. And that’s where we come in.
Our Place is a place where a kid can come and see that the world doesn’t have to be a constant struggle, that it’s not out to get him, that there are people who do care about whether he succeeds or fails—whether he lives or dies. We provide him with a safe environment, a safe and secure part of his life where he can just chill and be a regular person for a few hours a day.