Yesterday afternoon I spent several hours with about twenty-five teenagers. Lots of people talk about youth as “our future.” The reality is, they have a great deal to offer in the present. I was not the speaker for the group but the person who spoke to them referenced a young girl from Afghanistan who was the subject of a Pulitzer prize winning photo. Tarana is her name. Her nightmare is the indiscriminate violence that is inflicted on innocents. She stands alive in the midst of the carnage of a bomb blast. Youth in our country experience a different kind of violence, but, violence nonetheless. Abuse of drugs, alcohol, and sexual experimentation along with hopelessness, poverty, physical and mental abuse destroys young lives as sure as a bomb blast. We don’t just destroy the future – we are destroying the present.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Youth has no age.” Who wants to work with youth? There aren’t many people lined up to sign up to work, play, or even be with teenagers. Yet, they offer so much that many adults can’t see – maybe adults avoid it because their own childhood was so difficult. Think of a way today that you can engage in helping a young person. How can you be a positive influence in their life? How can you set an example of an adult who cares? If you are a youth reading this – ask a caring adult to get involved in teaching, mentoring, supporting, or just hanging out with teens. You know who supportive adults are – ask them. Jesus once got agitated with his followers when they tried to get children away from him so he could do serious adult stuff. “When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.'” (Mark 10:14) You have permission from Jesus to become a kid again. Don’t mess it up.