I spent the weekend with about 50 teens in Fairview Heights, IL. I got to sing with them, eat with them, see them serve others, laugh and play with them, and learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Teens are incredible and inspiring. They are future-focused. They aren’t consumed with thinking about yesterday, but spend their time in the now and dreaming about tomorrow. Living fully in the now, they appreciate their friendships and aren’t afraid to be goofy and have fun. And when it comes to tomorrow, they sincerely believe they can make a significant difference. They honestly think they can change the world.
The world was changed this weekend. One act of kindness and senseless beauty at a time, the world was changed. Leaves were raked, alleys de-trashed, buses washed, mulch spread, and activities centers cleaned. The city of East St. Louis was changed. There was no media attention, no newspapers, no personal benefit or recognition to be received from these acts of service. And yet, the teens worked diligently, with joy and laughter.
At some point, it seems, most adults start thinking less optimistically about the future, and begin longing for days gone by. Our thoughts of tomorrow focus on retirement, security, and comfort. In the process, we forget that life is lived now, learning from yesterday to make a better tomorrow. We get crotchety and cranky and selfish, forgetting our responsibility to think of the generations after us.
Haley is another teen making a difference. To make a long story short, she wanted to make a t-shirt to change the world. And she did. She created a black and white shirt that reads, “Live simply so others can simply live.” The proceeds from the sale of the shirt are sending Jenifer, a girl in Guatemala, to school, and taking care of her physical needs—food, clothing, shelter.
Jamie, Kaylea, Sophie, and I all have the shirt. It sells for $10. If you want one, let me know. They are doing another print in a couple of weeks.
I love spending time with teens. Even though they feel caught in the middle—not a child, not quite an adult—they aren’t afraid to make a real difference now, and dream of ways that tomorrow, just maybe, a piece of heaven might come to earth.