Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boys and Girls

Normally we split the kids into two groups - one Senior High and one Junior High. Last night at youth group we had an interesting experiment, where we split the kids by GENDER. Dawn took the girls, and I took the boys.

When I told the boys what was going on they all groaned. “I don’t want to talk about Girls!” they wailed. One even said “I picked the wrong night to come back to youth group.” But you know what? Within about a minute they were all talking so animatedly and passionately I couldn’t shut them up. “Why do girls take everything so personally???” one boy yelled. “Yeah!” everyone agreed. I wanted so badly to share what little I’ve learned about the fairer sex but I didn’t. I have my doubts about how much they listen to me anyway.

All the boys agreed that women’s roles have changed in the last 100 years. “They have so much power now. And so many rights. We have to do everything they say!” The boys seemed a little oppressed.

We had each side think up of a question for the other side and then we exchanged questions half-way and discussed our answers.

I was very impressed with the question that the boys posed to the girls. “Why does everything have to be so full of drama and gossip?”

We rendezvoused later to share our answers. Initially, the girls blamed the drama on the boys’ refusal to treat them properly, but the boys called them out on this non-answer and then the girls got real. “We’re so full of drama because its coming from our insecurity about ourselves.” said one of the girls as she looked across the room at her boyfriend. The room got quiet. What a moment! Another girl said “and we gossip because it makes us feel better about ourselves.”

The question we received from the girls was impressive too. “Why do you boys have to put on a ‘show’ when you’re around your friends, but then you’re all sweet when its just the boy and the girl?”

What a great question! “We HAVE to act tough around the other guys because otherwise we’d get eaten alive!” said one of the boys. “And THAT comes from OUR insecurity.”

The discussions had started out so turbulently and so angry at “the other.” Neither Dawn nor I had anticipated such a significant and dramatic climax of agreement and confession. Dawn pointed out the moment to the kids in case they missed it.

Before we knew it, it was time to go home. As we all walked out together I thought about how alien each side seemed to the other, but yet, in the lives of these young people, their relationship with the opposite sex was going to be taking center stage for the next decade. And at some critical point in their lives, their relationship with their significant other may be the only thing they have in this world to cling to.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mission Trip: Riley's Report

First, I want to say that the mission trip was an amazing week, in so many ways, and I want all of you who helped make it possible to know how grateful I am for that opportunity. Thank you.

I’ve been thinking for a week about what I would say to you today, trying to find an “aha moment” or something to describe that would wrap up everything I felt that week into a nice little speech that wouldn’t put you to sleep and might even make you laugh once or twice. I couldn’t find that moment. I never had a voice announce in my head, “Congratulations! Your life has been changed!” or anything like that. I didn’t get any great advice that changed the way I looked at life. But despite the lack of one defining moment, the week definitely did change me. I couldn’t find one defining moment that summed it all up, because the week was the moment. It was everything added together that made the full effect.

There was the time that Tabby and I mustered up our courage and encouraged each other to take our swim tests in the cold lake so we could go kayaking together. Once we got out onto the middle of the lake, we just pulled our paddles out of the water and sat for a while, trying to take in all the beauty around us.

There were the times at the work sites, when we worked together to get our projects done and did our best to improve the lives of the people we’d been assigned to help. There was always a lot of work to do, and it was sometimes overwhelming, but everyone put in their energy and enthusiasm and we accomplished some impressive things.

There were the times the whole camp played Ultimate Frisbee. It started with the most athletic guys doing the whole thing, leaving the rest of us out, but with some encouragement from the counselors, they learned that all of us could contribute, and wanted to. We all started to pour out our energy trying to get that Frisbee into the goal, congratulating each other on great passes and encouraging each other to keep trying after making a mistake. That was a great feeling.

On the last full day of camp, Tabby, Elizabeth and I had some extra time and decided to explore a trail we hadn’t been on. We talked and laughed on our way up, and at the end, we found an outdoor chapel with a perfect view of the lake. We sat there for a while, silently. I don’t know what the other two were thinking about, but I was thinking about how this week had brought me together with them, and with the rest of the group from my church, and with youth and adults from all across the state. I looked out at the lake and realized how much I’d miss jumping off the dock in a line with all these people I now call friends. I have a feeling we were all occupied with similar thoughts about the significance of the week. Eventually, the silence passed, and we all got up and went back to camp, laughing and talking about seeing each other at school and maybe returning to Twinlow next summer. We didn’t say a prayer, but to me, that whole hike was a prayer, of thanksgiving, of wonder, and of hope.

There were so many moments, too many to tell in one speech or twenty. I really, really, really, really want to go back next year. If I could go back next week, see everyone again, and keep working to serve the community, I would. One week wasn’t enough to get to know all of those amazing people, and the need for our enthusiastic help in the community will never be met if we don’t step up.