Garbage love vs dad hugs: Youth Alive’s message

Youth+Alive%27s+Terrence+Talley

Youth Alive's Terrence Talley

“Today we are going to save someone’s life.”

On Jan. 24, Oshkosh North gymnasium flooded with emotions as the voice of Youth Alive spokesman Terrence Talley echoed through the room. 

Most of the crowd didn’t really understand what Talley was talking about. Nobody knew what this assembly was about because oftentimes students don’t have a say in the assembly or topic, but this time, a student did, according to Principal Jaquelyn Kiffmeyer, 

“After giving the survey back in November to students, the overall message was that students wanted more positive messages around school.  Around the same time, a student came forward to me with the suggestion to look into Youth Alive because he had seen them in the summer and felt they had a great message. They firmly believe every student matters.  So does North!” Kiffmeyer said.

Many of the students began to realize what Talley meant when he said, “Today we are going to save someone’s life” when he began to mention empathy. 

Empathy: The ability to understand and share feelings with each other

Many of us attend school on a daily basis, hiding something we don’t want others to know whether it be the scars from our pain or just the fact we cry ourselves to sleep. We fear the judgment of others. We are so quick to judge because we never understand what someone is going through, we rarely put ourselves in their shoes

Math teacher Jason Malkowski said,“Many students in this school are suffering from pain they don’t want to face or admit. Hearing Terrance talk about this helped open the eyes of many teachers and students to what is happening around them every day.”

“Some of you have come with a mask upon your face. You don’t need your mask today.”

After hearing these words, many had tears streaming down their face because they felt accepted, they didn’t feel alone, and most importantly they felt cared about. 

People often do not take much time to understand others. 

Some of us have never experienced a “dad hug.” Some of us don’t get to go home to the comfort of a loving family. Some of us wear a mask, but deep down we are in constant pain. Some of us are just too afraid to admit we need help.

“I never want anyone to feel the way my brother felt.”

Talley shared a story about his older brother who enlisted in the military to help support their family. His brother felt it was his job to protect and support Talley because they had an alcoholic dad. During his enlistment, the Iraq war started which had a big effect on Talley’s brother Bud. 13-14 years after enlistment Bud came back home but had very severe PTSD to the point where he started drinking. Bud didn’t reach out for help, so Talley didn’t really realize how much pain Bud was in. Bud was in so much pain and overwhelmed that he took his life.

Dad hug: The type of hug that comforts you in the worst of time. It can make all your worries go away and make you feel loved. 

 Having the opportunity to experience the “dad hug” we got from teachers and seeing it escalate throughout the gymnasium brought tears to many. 

“I gave a hug to Mr.M and Mr.P because they are one of my favorite teachers, and I feel they are always there for me.” said sophomore Maddy Dutscheck

“You don’t deserve garbage love”

Talley shared with us the story of a young girl who only experienced garbage love. When the girl turned 13 her mom told her she had to grow up. She had to take care of herself on her own financially, physically, and mentally. Her mom refused to even give her a hug because she thought it wasn’t adult-like. Every day the young girl carried the same tissue with her everywhere she went, and every so often she would take it out and rub it on her face as if she was wiping away tears. Nobody knew why. 

When Talley met this young girl and saw her with the tissue, it struck his curiosity. He was told by the girl’s school principal that she would not tell anyone but he could ask her if he wanted. So, Talley asked her, and she told him. 

She said, “My mom would get ready every morning and put on this bright red lipstick. She would take a tissue wipe off the excess lipstick on her face and throw it in the garbage. One day I watched as she threw her tissue away and after she left the house I went and grabbed the tissue out of the garbage and put it in my pocket. Every so often when I miss my mom, or I am thinking of her, I will take the tissue out and rub it on my cheeks because it makes me feel like she is close to me again.” 

The young girl named Theresa experienced garbage love from her mother. The only way she could feel close to her mom is by using the tissue. Her mom made her feel unwanted and unloved. 

 We all experienced non-garbage love the day Talley came to speak to us. People knew they were cared about.  

“Today you are going to know someone cares.” 

He was exactly right, and for some people that is exactly what they needed and it had the perfect timing. Talley told us a story about a young man in a black hoodie. During the time everyone was giving each other hugs at that school, he looked over and saw a young man in a black hoodie pacing. After the assembly was over, the student approached Talley and set a gun down on the desk and thanked him. 

The hooded student said, “Today was the day I was going to take my life, and I didn’t because of you. Thank you.” 

Talley made just as big of a difference in someone’s life as he did that to that young man. Many students at this school suffer in silent pain every day. Talley came to us today to shine some light in those students’ darkness.

“This story stood out to me the most because I’ve been in the same situation the hooded man was in. I’ve been at the point where I felt hopeless and when you’re in the position, feeling a little bit of happiness and love can make a world of difference.”- said anonymous Oshkosh North sophomore 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are 129 suicides on average every day. Talley shared the importance of empathy with us. Having empathy with people and making them feel cared for will bring that rate down. We can save lives. We can prevent their pain and the pain we’d feel losing someone close. Have empathy. Prove to people that they matter and you care. 

Many in the crowd felt the care. 

Current sophomore Ashley Ruby said, “That is exactly what this world needs. Everyone in this world deserves to feel wanted and cared for.”