Just Another Day @ The Beacon
This is a reprint of a news article featured in the Brighton Independent in October.
Many thanks to the Independent and the other local media that supports us so generously...
A few more teens trickle into The Beacon in Brighton on a sunny Thursday. It is 11:25 am and the students from ENSS seem more hungry than usual. ‘T’ comes first and signs in. He sits at the lunch table, smiling but quiet and accepts a bowl of soup. Elisabeth tries to engage him in conversation. At the door M signs in also and comes to grab a sandwich. He hovers near to the ‘big boy’ pool table; the 8 foot slate-top beauty that was donated last year. Rick, a volunteer and retired RCMP Corporal and Canadian Armed Forces veteran, waits for M to ask the obvious question: “Play you for a pop?”
“Sure. You break,” says Rick.
Teens who can beat a volunteer on the "Big Boy" table win a free pop.
M will always try. In his family there is very little of free anything. He works part time but always seems hungry. Sometimes, if other teens aren’t around, a volunteer will offer him a bag of sandwiches left over from the day’s lunch, or a jar of peanut butter. He stuffs it into his backpack... always says thank you.
In another corner, Y plays chess with Rene, who sits sideways, splitting his attention between the youths entering The Beacon and Y’s next move. Y has captured Rene’s white bishop and two pawns and lost only a knight in return. He grins; “you ought to focus better.”
“I am focused. You’re just better than I am,” Rene says. He waves at one of the teens just entering the Beacon. “Hey Colby,” says Rene, “welcome back. It’s been a long time.” The boy smiles but Y whispers, “his name’s not Colby.”
The crowd flows in. At 11:25 they are asked to stand quiet as Rick prays for the food. “Bless this food to our use, and we also remember the people in Syria without homes and friends struggling with dark stuff, like depression and addictions. We pray your love for them and for our friends and families. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
The noise builds up again and the pool games resume. Two new kids at the small table stop what they are doing and look at the painted lighthouse and the words streaming from the light beam.
“That’s John 3:16, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
“Cool,” says the taller one and continues his shot.
An hour later the high school students have all left and a troop of girls come in from Brighton Public School. They giggle more, and sit all together around the lunch table. More soup is served and they each take a helping. Karen speaks with them and tries to get their names right.
“We were in yesterday and they forgot to pray,” announces A, the more verbal and confident one. “We noticed after we left.”
“So let’s pray now,” says Karen and they follow her prayer with an audible “Amen.”
On Thursday evening Susan and Jeremy are on duty from 7 – 9 pm. P and J come from a foster home accompanied by Mike their night worker. Mike is in his twenties and likes to have fun with the boys. Tonight his cell phone is keeping him busy but the boys have a tournament going and are playing well. Susan is working on a photo collage of kids at the Beacon. Many nights she will begin a board game and gradually the kids will be drawn in, with five or six sitting huddled around the table, playing Scrabble or Clue.
Another volunteer enters because a meeting he had planned to attend was suddenly cancelled. At the same time B, who has a difficult time reading, comes over and wants to know about a certain Bible story. They open a Manga Bible and together they start to read. “Let’s just read. Don’t ask me any questions,” says B.
Gradually the games end and the clean up begins. The door is locked and the lights turned off as another day ends at The Beacon.
The Beacon Youth Centre has operated in Brighton for nine years. It is open during the school year from Tuesdays to Fridays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
Rene and the many volunteers are grateful to the many groups who support the youth centre.
Those who wish to know more or contribute to The Beacon can call Rene Schmidt at 613-885-1100.