Celebrating Teenagers

by NightShift

Wow. Where did the time go? When did we grow up and become a … teenager? That’s right, NightShift Street Ministries has turned 13 years old, and is headed boldly into its teenage years bubbling over with passionate plans for the future.

Do you remember when NightShift made its entrance into the world? It was a cold winter in 2004 when our Founder and President, MaryAnne Connor, first felt the call to share love, hope and purpose with homeless, hurting and addicted people on the streets of Whalley.

Today, NightShift has a volunteer base of more than 2,500 people, including individuals, community groups, church teams and local businesses who help us reach out to our friends on the street with meals, clothing, crisis counselling, basic nursing, a mobile library, prayer and women’s extreme weather outreach. Our continuum of care includes ongoing, registered counselling, and support groups. We have two social enterprises, Sisters Thrift Boutique and A Taste of Heaven food truck. NightShift also holds annual special events, including our golf tournament, our gala, and our women’s event, Unmasking the Truth.

There is no one who has watched and guided and protected and prayed for NightShift more than MaryAnne. “You know, we’ve gone through a lot of growing pains – and we will continue to have growing pains, but you look at a child of 13 moving forward and say ‘she or he is growing up and they have some knowledge and some life behind them.’ We now have a voice, and it might be a little squeaky, because we’re only 13, but we have something to say, so we’d like to be heard.”

In honour of NightShift becoming a teenager, we went in search of stories from people about their own coming of age – the tenderness, the hope, the awkwardness, the hurt, and the flame of promise that comes with turning 13. We have found staff, volunteers, and even a few of our friends on the streets who were willing to share what life was like for them when they first became a teenager.  We will share these stories with you throughout the year.

Our first story is from our Selah point person at NightShift, Mandee Mramor. A real firecracker and a passionate advocate for women, 26-year-old Mandee is a Trinity Western University graduate. She shares this about her first year as a teenager.

Mandee Mramor collecting donations for Selah drop-in

What were you like at 13?

I was a dancer at a studio. It was a company, so I did all kinds – jazz, ballet, hip hop, all that. We performed in Las Vegas, around Colorado, Utah and California. I was awkward a little bit because, I mean, I was 13. I was bad at make-up, because I always wore stage make-up – that’s what I was used to. So I always wore heavy black eye shadow which I thought looked really good. It did not look good! But being a dancer, so much of my time was spent on stage that I was just used to doing very heavy stage make-up – so that was my tutorial.

Do you cringe now, looking back?

Oh yeah! It’s like a rite of passage to look awkward and gawky with braces and glasses, not knowing how to do make-up and wearing body glitter. I was a lot girlier then than I am now. Like, I loved pink and all things girly. I wanted to be a professional dancer or a wedding planner.

Our second story comes from a special friend to NightShift. Lynn Brown lives on the streets in our neighbourhood. Due to multiple barriers, she is unable to secure housing. Lynn visits us often at NightShift, and last week, she shared a glimpse into what life was like for her as a young teenager.

Lyn reflects on being 13

What were you like at 13 years old?

I was gifted among students at 13 years old. I was smart in everything. I was a very quick read. I would pick up anything. It was almost like a frantic search to fill the spaces in my head. My family, who adopted me, had a medical background. There was shoptalk at home every Sunday and I absorbed everything.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be many things. That’s the problem – I was never able to choose. I had a great affinity for animals, more so than for people.

Did you have a best friend?

I had no best friend. I was basically a savant, the teacher’s pet, and perpetually alone. I was ostracized. I was misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder. I just wanted to play, but I had no friends. I was considered a nerd.

Two very different stories of teenage tenderness. We are so thankful to Lynn and Mandee for sharing with us. The teenage years are not easy ones – there can be every range of emotion mixed with great promise and sometimes, deep hurt. In the coming weeks, we will share with you other stories of turning 13 – and in them, we hope you can reflect, heal and find hope as you locate your own teenage heart.

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