No, I have not left my husband Phil, nor am I living with my son (his name is Shane anyway) – these are my responses to the two questions I most often get asked when I say, “I’m living at Sean’s House.” Sean’s House, named for and inspired by Sean Locke who this world lost to suicide in 2018, is a safe and welcoming place that promotes mental wellness for young people (ages 14-24) and offers 24/7 emergency support for those in crisis.
The first time I heard Chris Locke (Sean’s Dad) talk about Sean’s House, I heard in my spirit that I was going to live there. That was exciting to me and I was on board – but I had no idea how that was going to work, especially since Chris already had another plan.
I immediately wrote my spiritual stirrings off to my own selfish desires – or maybe, as a youth pastor, recognizing the vast need of such a place for our young people, I was just invested in the idea. The goal of Sean’s House is to be a place young people can find peer support and a safe place to talk, find resources, hang out, do homework, or just get a cup of coffee and a cookie. Yes, I was invested.
I found other ways to be a part of Sean’s House, by organizing just one of many groups of people who showed up to help make Sean’s House a reality. Each group accomplished a task towards the renovation of this former college house (where Sean lived during college with his housemates), transforming it into Sean’s House, where young people can find hope in their struggle.
And then, at the last minute, because of COVID, the original plan for overnight emergency support changed, leaving Chris with no options – except me.
So here I am, living at Sean’s House. At first, I had no official title except “I live here,” but now we say that I serve as the “overnight emergency support person”(Way better than the “Crazy old lady who lives upstairs”).
It seems too good to be true most days. As a youth pastor, I am in my element, surrounded by young people – staff, peer counselors, or those who come in crisis after hours. As a chaplain, I also find myself in my element as I minister to these same young people’s spirits just by being present without judgement (except when it comes to cleaning up after themselves) and trusting God is at work in their hearts.
I recognize the gift I have been given and try to invest and to serve, as God leads me, each day I am here. I also look for God at work in and through it all. It is sobering when I think about all the ways people pour into this project, some gestures are so generous they make you smile, other gestures are so miraculous they make you drop to your knees. And to think that God would allow me to be a part of all of this leaves me humble and grateful.
I do not take my place here lightly, nor do I discount God’s incredible plan for redemption of all things fallen and broken in this world. The struggle is real. As a community, we needed to step up and take notice of the crisis our young people are experiencing surrounding their mental health. It took the Locke family’s crisis – losing Sean to suicide – to create a place for their healing to begin. Sean’s House has been a haven for over 650 young people since opening its doors on October 1, 2020.
It is impossible to make sense of the tragedies of this world, so do not think I am even attempting to do that. But it is amazing to see glimpses of beauty rise out of the ashes, the oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, as God continues to use Sean’s House as a place of refuge, healing, and redemption for so many young people.
Each morning as I prepare to leave for the day, I stop at the picture of Sean and his housemates dressed in their Christmas sweaters and pray out loud for all the house to hear. I first thank God for creating a light (Sean’s House) out of the darkness (the loss of Sean). I tell Sean we would always rather have him here, he is so missed. And then I thank him for continuing to shine his light, illuminating the way for so many, most who never even knew him.
In his short 23 years, Sean’s light shined on everyone who met him. Through Sean’s House, Sean’s light continues to shine on this world, creating a ripple effect that will go on for eternity. O what a joyful reunion that will be for all of us who have been touched by the ripple of Sean’s life and legacy. Praise God for the redemption of all things fallen and broken in this world.
There is room for you at Sean’s House. Do you need a safe place to share what is going on in your life with someone who has been there? Are you looking for a space to relax and find peace? Or maybe you are feeling called to support Sean’s House through volunteering or financial support? You are always welcome to stop by and see us at 136 West Main St. The light is on, the door is open, and we have coffee and cookies ready for you!
Check out Sean’s House on social media and show your support:
Instagram: @unlockethelight and @seans.house