Executive Director, Jim White, has been sharing his passion for Covenant House and the youth facing homelessness that we serve for over 40 years. His year end messages to our community are always insightful and heartwarming. Here is the 2022 message that “love wins”.
Have you read the Christmas story? Have you read it recently?
When you think about what’s actually happening, you might ask yourself: Why are we celebrating this?
Mary and Joseph are homeless. They ask for help and are flatly denied. Mary is not only feeling the physical pain that comes with childbirth, but also faces circumstances that are dispiriting and discouraging. She had to have deep concern about the well-being of her unborn child.
I wonder what the story in her head might have been.
I’m young, I’m poor and I have nowhere to rest. Is this a safe place to stay? For me? For my unborn child? Will anybody help us? Who can I trust? Will I make it through the night? What kind of future do I have? And my child? This was not supposed to happen to me…
I know those were the questions Jessica felt when I met her nearly 20 years ago. That morning, walking through our Newark shelter, I was saying hello and introducing myself to the young people in our day room. I can read a room.
Some young people are looking for a connection while others want to be left alone. Jessica was in between. She had her things around her, everything she owned in two large green garbage bags. She was pregnant and clearly had experienced physical violence as evidenced by the marks on her face and shoulder. She seemed to want to connect, but something held her back; probably shame, embarrassment, and likely some well-earned distrust of others. I had seen it before more than once.
Jessica came to us at a time when we didn’t have a mothers and babies program. At the time, I was actually considering opening up such a program, with another agency. They had the building; we had the know-how. Still, I was thinking we should walk away. Our plate was full; we were doing enough. And where was I going to get the money?
Jessica gave me the push I needed.
Jessica is the Christmas story – the story of hope, love, and faith when things are bleakest. It is the story of believing… Knowing that when we act in faith, hope, and love we experience joy – the joy that Christmas promises.
Not long after Jessica came to us, we opened up Raphael’s Life House. Since then, hundreds of mothers have been welcomed there – a former convent converted into a home for 12 mothers and their children.
In addition to Raphael’s Life House, we have 7 other locations across the state serving youth facing homelessness. They are warm, welcoming, and safe places for ALL youth regardless of background. Places where you don’t have to worry about where you will stay the next night – or the night after that (they can stay with us for as long as they need to get on their feet). Here they have the help of professionals in moving forward with their lives. They will not be alone.
So here is what we celebrate, at Christmas and always: Love wins! We are reminded yet again of the promise that we are not alone. And that as people who are committed to love and serve, we are required to act. Act in faith, hope and love and trust.
It was through Jessica and the suffering we saw that we were moved to act. We definitely had doubts, worrying we’d never get the right staff, not sure we could afford the added expense. But we acted in faith. And hope. And love. So tonight, our youth of all backgrounds will rest, feeling more love, less fear and hope for the future. For together we bring them tidings of great joy. And the enduring message of the Nativity: love wins.
I hope your Christmas is filled with that promise and that those around you this holiday season bring you joy, peace and a deep sense of gratitude.
P.S. We still keep in touch with Jessica. She works as a teacher’s assistant and her daughter graduated high school – with honors. Read about more of our youth here.
Are you a youth in need of help?