By: Robin Whitaker & Darren Lane

It’s difficult to fathom the impact that the COVID-19 virus has had on every aspect of our lives. So much that we took for granted every single day can suddenly be seen through a different lens. The privilege of freely visiting family, whether in their homes, the hospital, or the nursing home, is no longer a foregone conclusion. The ability to go to our jobs to make a living, once seen perhaps as drudgey, can now be seen for the blessing that it is. Sending our children to school to be educated, such a common experience for all of us, has been temporarily suspended. It seems like all of life has been put on hold.

All of us adults have had to adjust to an unfamiliar way of living—working from home (if we’re lucky), “homeschooling” our children, Zooming with teachers and colleagues, scrambling for hand sanitizer and toilet paper, lining up to go into stores. These tough times have done what tough times always do: they’ve brought out the worst in some of us, but in others, the best.
The same is true for our young people, and maybe especially for the young people that we work with here at the Joy House. Having the daily routine interrupted in the midst of so much uncertainty was a particular risk for young people trying to get their lives back on track. As we sent them home for an undetermined amount of time, we knew that some of them would fall even further behind in school. Indeed, some of them have. But we’ve also had the great joy of seeing some of them rise to the occasion and exceed even our best hopes.

Eli is one of those students. During his eight months at the Joy House, he has made enormous behavioral changes, both in the home here and in his own home. His progress in school was on track. He came in as a tenth grader; in only those eight months, he completed World History and was well on his way to finishing tenth grade English, Algebra 1, and physical science. Then…COVID-19 sent him home. This could have been a setback. Instead, it was a hurdle he eased over as if it were nothing.

His work ethic has been a shining example during these weeks home. He has read a book and completed the essay over it and has completed six out of six of the workbooks that he was assigned. His grades have in no way suffered; in fact, he has maintained an A average. Just this week, his dad let me know that Eli was worried he might not finish this week’s paces in the prescribed time—because they hadn’t arrived via mail by Monday! That level of personal responsibility speaks volumes about the progress Eli has made.

In regards to counseling, there are those who do and those who don’t. Those who do identify areas in their life that they need to strengthen. This requires self-assessing and reporting this to someone. After these steps are taken, then the individual receives input, deciding what to do with the suggestions. Those who do put some of these suggestions into practice. Eli has continued to do all of these things, quarantine notwithstanding. He hasn’t let the interruption to interfere with the progress HE chooses to make. With those who do, setbacks are momentary hurdles to overcome and get past. Eli is one of these people. It’s been a great thing to watch. In the midst of worldwide sickness and challenges, this young man has experienced increased wellness in his personal and family life and seems healthier than ever.

We are so very proud of Eli’s growing character. Certainly, this time has been challenging for all of us. Soon, the shelter-in-place will end, and we will return to life more like what we’ve known before. Hopefully, though, all the lessons we’ve learned about ourselves, our friends, our children, our blessings, and our God will stay with us, and God will work this all for a very good purpose, indeed.