What love means here

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Today on Valentine’s Day, the day devoted to love, I pause to think about the love we experience at Project Legacy.

Here, we use the word love both frequently and carefully. We know that many of our young people have been hurt by these words — from their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other trusted adults the world says should love them.

Love can be a frightening thing.

The idea of love is confusing for those who have been abused in the name of it. And for the children who have been abandoned, abused and let down, to love is a great risk.

For these reasons, we take our responsibilities and promises to our youth seriously. Love is an action word, not just a concept or principle. To love means to protect, cherish and respect. When we love our youth, we show them that we value them and believe they are worth the world — and then show them we will go to the ends of the earth to assist them in healing and transforming their lives.

But we also know that for youth who have been hurt, there is much work that needs to be done in order to heal. And not everyone is ready for this journey. On this journey, addiction, mental health, trauma and generational challenges needs to be addressed. Project Legacy doesn’t save people. We can’t tell people how to live, nor do we want to.

But we also know that until a young person is ready to change — to give up unhealthy behaviors, substances or relationships — we can’t help them. There aren’t many things harder for me to say to a young person than, “You aren’t ready for what we’re doing here. When you are ready to address the problem, we will be here.”

Project Legacy is not a treatment facility. We aren’t a shelter, and we don’t provide one-time emergency services. Here, we’re about life transformation. We’re here for the long haul and for as long as the process takes. And as long as a young person remains committed to moving forward, ready to address addiction and trauma and to heal the pain, we remain consistent — walking beside them, pulling them along, holding them up.

Unconditional love.

Because love is an action and a commitment. And sometimes, love means drawing a firm line and enforcing boundaries for the safety of not just one young person, but for the safety of a group. For the safety of our Project Legacy family.

Our youth ask us to hold them accountable. They ask us to keep them safe when others, who aren’t ready, threaten their own sobriety and healing. Because even for those who are ready, the process of change is excruciatingly difficult.

So we do, because love protects.

At Project Legacy, love is an action. And when young people are ready, they find a family who loves them and believes in them, who they can depend on no matter what.

Karen Edmonds