Friday afternoon, 2 minivans headed to the local high school to pick up 6 teen girls. Some are girls from our church and some are friends from school. Specifically, 5 are associated with church and 1 is part of their group at school. All are around 15 years old. All attend public school together.
I have to tell you that I was nervous. I was thinking back to what I was like as a teenager and trying to remember what I thought about adults. But my looking back is skewed because I was dealing with some serious and heavy issues as a teen. Bottom line was that I wanted these kids to like me. I knew a couple of them well enough to be comfortable with them. I'd watched a few of them growing up over the years. But I was worried about them liking me, accepting me, trusting me. Silly, isn't it? I'm an adult. I've already been through that stage in my life where I worry about being liked and accepted. But something about hanging out with teens took me back to that place from my own teen-hood.
I shouldn't have worried. These girls were awesome. I should have realized everything would be fine since I was the only chaperone who wasn't a parent of one of the kids. The other minivan held all the stuff the girls had packed and 2 moms of 2 of the girls. I got the girls and their energy and their laughter and their conversation all to myself. And it was an important lesson, really.
And it is something I want other grown ups to know. If there are teens around you- at church, in your neighborhood- chances are good they are good kids. And chances are good they want to talk to you. They want to know that you love them and that you care and that you see their value.
One of the girls has some serious and ongoing health issues. She has a supportive and loving family. She's smart and witty and pretty and caring. Because she deals with ongoing pain and with a serious health concern, she is more aware of the bigger things in life.
One of the girls has a home life that isn't the best. She loves her parents and I'm sure they love her. But I'm told they are incredibly strict and come down really hard on her over ridiculous things. And that when they come down- they are mean and say things that hurt the heart. And she's this amazing girl. She has this wonderfully silly side that I got to see for the first time ever. She is considerate, polite, and feels deeply and intensely.
One of these girls often seems dark and moody. But she's carrying around someone else's pain as her own burden. And she's scared of what will happen if she ever lets go. I think others see her as wandering, lost, uncaring, and morose. And I see her trying hard to fit that description. But I also saw those layers get peeled back and I saw her let down that guard. I was honored to be able to talk to her from time to time about her dreams, her life, her joy.
One of these girls still holds a child's heart and her joy and amazement flows freely from her. She is a spark. She has hurt in her heart due to having "broken homes." But her love of life and the intensity with which she feels happiness and shares it is going to take her far.
These are your average, everyday girls who are dealing with school and grades and boys and prom and parents and pressure and stress and deep questions and still have a desire to just be kids. They colored on our road trip- crayons and coloring books. They like to play board games, several of them don't really mind hanging out with their parents, they are learning to swing dance. They are passionate about making a positive change in the world. They have goals- being an Army medic, a firefighter, a crime scene investigator, finding a cure for diabetes. I watched them dance and sing and hug and talk and play together.
Personally, I'm eager and excited to be around these remarkable girls. I can't wait to stay connected to them. I saw some of them Sunday morning at church and was positively giddy about it. I'll see more of them on Wednesday at our church dinner/small group time. I learned so much about them this weekend- in just over 24 hours.
And I can't wait to learn even more.