At Jeremy's going-away party last month, it was hard to believe that he was the same child who first entered Cunningham's residential treatment program three years ago. He laughed and exchanged jokes with his peers and was visibly excited when Chaplain Gay asked, "Are you ready to walk the labyrinth?" Jeremy knew that "walking the labyrinth" is a time-honored tradition for Cunningham youth who are ready to move on to new horizons. A rite of passage for our kids, it represents life's journey and the many twists and turns we all experience along the way.
Before Jeremy came to Cunningham, his life had not followed a smooth path. Due to profound neglect in his early childhood, his language skills were very limited. He seldom spoke, did not respond to other people's voices, and cowered when approached by adults and children alike. After intensive speech therapy, individual and group counseling, and a host of other therapeutic activities designed to build confidence and trust, Jeremy's true potential became evident. He excelled at school, enjoyed sports, and loved to be a helper to his teachers and staff.
Now, at Chaplain Gay's prompting, Jeremy stood at the start of the labyrinth, a circular path painted in blue on a large sheet of canvas. To signify the challenges he's faced so far, he edged carefully towards the center of the spiral, working hard to stay between the narrow lines. As he reached the end of the path, his friends and staff stood along the perimeter, and together they all said a prayer.
"I'll always remember you, Jeremy," said Donnie.
"You're the first person who reached out to me when I came here," shared Joshua.
And other kids joined in:
"You're a great dancer."
"I'll miss you on the swim team."
"Keep in touch."
Reaching the labyrinth's center wasn't Jeremy's only goal, though. To represent his life going forward, he turned around and retraced his steps back to where he'd started. Once again the path was not straight; it had its ups and downs, but this time, Jeremy was surrounded by people who care about him and will give him support after he moves on to the next chapter in his life.
"The labyrinth reminds us to pause and reflect on where we've been and where we're going," summarizes Chaplain Gay. "It's a tangible way to follow a path of prayer and fellowship."