Greetings from Seattle, a brief stopover on our travels after a conference in Montreal on our journey back to New Zealand. Catching up with old friends from the past was the purpose for this brief stop, and with expectation we built such opportunities into our travel itinerary. As with many trips down memory lane, some remain especially vivid while others become distorted by time. This trip has presented many opportunities to reflect about the significance of friends in child and youth care work, highlighting the importance of friends for the young people with whom we work as well as the importance of colleagues and friends for those of us who work in this field.
Opportunities to reconnect with old friends like Thom
The importance of friends and peer group relationships is well documented in the child and youth care literature. But that literature doesn’t seem to capture those special qualities of friendship and meaning that transform chance associations into life-long relationships. One such relationship, forged when we were graduate school colleagues, was with Loren Finley, who became a life-long friend. I last saw Loren in a nursing home in Seattle last August just after the International Child and Youth Care Conference. Loren told me he was dying of a rare illness but we still made plans to meet up again in late June during this visit for another time of sharing. Sadly, Loren died peacefully three weeks before our scheduled visit. So I missed that opportunity to reconnect again with this very special friend who was a captain of his own ship.
A time to remember friendships
We also spent time with Tye whom I first met more than thirty years ago when I worked with her in a secure unit for troubled and troublesome young women. She was at that time an angry and challenging young woman referred by the Juvenile Court for behaviours deemed a threat to herself and others. As a youthful social worker, little did I know what impact we were to make on each other’s lives. Just before my return to Scotland in 1975 to take up a teaching post at Stirling University, Tye turned up on my doorstep late one afternoon after hitch-hiking for three hours saying we needed to talk. After hearing that I was leaving to become involved in the education and training of social workers engaged with young people like her, she laid a challenge that remains as real today as it was all those years ago: “If you ever turn out social workers like some of the ones I’ve had to deal with, I'll haunt your ass all over the world!" Now aged nearly 47 and the mother of two grown children – one recently having completed her Masters degree in Social Work – it was a special treat to meet up with Tye for dinner in Seattle, to share stories and photos of the old days, and to celebrate the importance of friendships and relationships in her life. It was humbling to hear her claim that I had saved her life at a time when she was living a particularly vulnerable lifestyle.
Remembering Linda and her beautiful alsatian dogs
This also reminded me of Linda who tracked me down
via the internet two years ago, thirty years after I had worked with her
in a so-called unit for maladjusted teenagers in Edinburgh. Over the
past thirty years, Linda had become an internationally recognised
breeder and show judge of Alsatian dogs. She had also found herself
having to cope with diabetes type 1 and an increasingly debilitating
lifestyle. Sadly, Linda also died during the past month before we could
meet up again. Now it is only her smile and her beautifully natured dogs
that will remain enduring memories. All this to say, in the hustle and
bustle of the coming month, wherever you are, please try find time to
call a friend and let them know just how important they are to you. Also
reaffirm the importance of friendships amongst the young people with
whom you work! We never know just how important that can be!