Yellow Brick Road recently had the pleasure of attending a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conference for Recovery-Oriented Healthy Communities in Arlington, Virgina. The conference was very informative and it was inspiring to learn about all the great treatment & recovery programs developing around the country. Check out the SAMHSA website to learn more about the work being done to help our most vulnerable citizens at local and federal levels. While we were in Arlington we also seized the opportunity to visit some of the amazing monuments and museums in Washington D.C.. Among these was the National Museum of American History and guess what just happened to be on display? That's right. The original ruby slippers worn by a 16 year old Judy Garland for her performance in the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz!
While we marveled at the ruby slippers, now a national treasure, we were reminded that our street outreach program chose its rather unusual name way back in 1984 as a direct reference to this film and the fundamental theme of self-discovery that it explores so memorably in metaphor. As you will recall, the film follows a band of unlikely misfits on their quest along the yellow brick road to find the "wizard" who they hope will grant them the internal attributes they feel they need to reach their full potential and life-goals. The Cowardly Lion needs courage. The Tin Man needs a heart. The Scarecrow needs a brain. And Dorothy and Toto just want to go home. Not entirely coincidentally, their adventures take them through a dangerous field of poppies, where they are momentarily distracted from their path and nearly lulled into an eternal sleep of oblivion. Could there possibly be a more fitting analogy for addiction? Ultimately they arrive at the wizard's castle in Emerald City and soon realize that he is a complete farce. A sham. He's no wizard at all, just a regular guy behind a curtain. But far from being disappointed, the characters soon realize their quest's purpose and learn that they've actually possessed what they needed to succeed all along. It was already inside them, just waiting to blossom. Isn't that a perfect metaphor for youth and for the journey we all must take toward self-realization and wholeness? In fact it is a perfect metaphor for Positive Youth Development, one of the key principles upon which Yellow Brick Road Street Outreach was founded. We gave our program this name to always remind our outreach teams and the young people we meet that the streets are not the end of the road. This weekend we encourage you to revisit The Wizard of Oz and watch it through the lens of youth homelessness. You may see the film in a way you never quite expected. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain...""There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home..."