On Saturday at 23:00 my heart pumps a little faster. I, along with several others, pull on a blue jacket. We often add a few extra layers as the chilling air moving over the Salzach tends to penetrate to the bone, though we have learned to deal with the cold down on Rudolfskai. Warm boots, scarves, gloves and hats covering our ears usually do the trick. Some of us will even pack a thermos of hot tea from time to time. Rain, however is a whole other story. It’s hard to stay warm when you’re wet. We may be damp, but our spirits aren’t dampened because we haven’t had a boring night yet. Some nights are good, some are bad, but none are boring in the city of Salzburg.
We know so many youth out there now. So many names. So many new friends. In our first couple months of Street Buddies we spent much of the time explaining to young people who we were and what we were doing. Now, more frequently, someone will ask, and the kid next them will give them an answer and even a quick anecdote about Street Buddies. Last weekend we had the honor of meeting a teacher who came up to tell us that her students had told her about Street Buddies. She approached us with praise and encouragement on the wettest night yet. Lately I’ve seen more and more blood on the Rudol fskai . Somet imes everything happens so fast that it’s over before we can dial 133 for emergency police intervention. At least we haven’t had to call for an ambulance lately. Of course all this action is half the attraction for all those who frequent the 300 meter Kai. Even with the body of one young visitor being found under a bridge in the Salzach a few weeks ago, the party rages on.
We have been praying for more Street Buddies. Our first and only source for volunteers were the numerous churches and believing communities across Austria and Bayern, but that’s not where the interest is coming from. It’s coming from the street! Our first recruits since the onset of the program this year approached us on Rudolfskai. They didn’t come from a Christ focused background and there is no sense of obligation in them. They just see the need, and they see how much we enjoy doing what we do. And we do enjoy it! It’s great!
I get offered cigarettes, drinks, drugs and hugs all night long. I take the hugs, and there are plenty of them. But there is more than just that. We get cursed and blessed constantly. We are hated and loved. It is a concentration of love, hate, problems, celebrations and much more, and we’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s fantastic and something completely new has been happening. People have been handing us money! We’ve never asked a kid for money, but every night for the past few outings, someone has put money in my hand. Please know that you are invited. I wouldn’t invite anyone if I thought they wouldn’t have a good time. You will. If you love people, there are plenty of receptive young people out there at night waiting for you. And it’s easy. Yeah, you might not get your full eight hours of sleep, but other than that it’s pretty easy. Right now, we have about 19 Street Buddies, but only 3-5 each week. We need and want 50 with 4-6 Buddies on Fridays and Saturdays. Do you have plans this Saturday night? No? Well come to the party on Rudolfskai in the city of Salzburg! We’ll be the ones in bright blue jackets.