When people hear that I work with teenagers voluntarily the reaction is usually something like, "Wow - teenagers." Sometimes it is said with awe, sometimes wonder, often a little disbelief. During the years where I thought I wanted to be a teacher, I focused on elementary, because teenagers seemed sort of scary. Not life-threatening scary, but let's face it, you have more options when a ten year old is acting up, than you do with a seventeen year old.
However, it is one of the most amazing things I have ever had an opportunity to do. And I have to say, I talk to these kids and I feel this world is so lucky. Sure, I'm dealing with a select portion of them, and certainly there are days where I ask them, "Aren't you tired of hearing me ask you to get moving?", but mostly, they are awesome.
Now, I get it that being an adult they hang out with is an entirely different kettle of fish than being a parent or a school teacher. But, for every day I say, "My goal for the day is to not take anyone to the hospital. Please help me achieve this goal." (they did), there is a day where someone says, "It's so cool that you know that."
Each year the seniors, in addition to having the opportunity to give a sermonette in the youth led service, bridge into young adulthood. The idea is to both mark the occasion and also to remind them, that while they are leaving youth group and, often, their families and friends, they are also moving into something. (Young adulthood, - woo-hoo.)
Last year I spoke at the spring conference on behalf of the young adults. (They sent prompts, such as, "My name is..." and "I speak on behalf of..." - I had to write my stuff down because I was afraid in a moment of stage fright I would say, "I am the Lorax, and I speak for the trees."
This year I spoke on behalf of the advisors and forgot to write it down, but managed to be coherent. I told them as advisors we had talked, listened, and laughed with them, slept on the floor with them, and watched them grow into the amazing people that they are. That we sent them off into this next step in their journeys with all our love and support. (There were also blessings from the board, the religious education department, the young adults, the congregation and the youth.)
So, that's why I do it. For moments like this.
*One parent paid me the amazing compliment of saying that I was the one that made her cry.