I grew up going to and working at one of the best camps on the planet. Great boss, good programming, people who love Jesus and some really fantastic kids. When I had the chance to talk about real life with those kids, they had questions about baptism, getting along with their parents, what it really means to “dedicate their life to Jesus,” and if they should get baptized.
Today, I work in a completely different world. The camp I just finished was full of questions about suicide and abuse, drugs and alcohol, and parents who leave for no reason. I can’t believe that my students are facing questions like these at 13. Their stories would break your heart.
I used to think that was I was doing now was more valuable. That the kids with the broken stories and the crazy lives were more important. I realize now, that both camps are necessary.
We need people who will push kids who have good families to keep making right decisions.
We need to help grow kids who don’t carry insane amounts of baggage.
We need to teach the “good kids” to keep making good decisions for themselves, not just because of their parents.
But we also need to love the kids who act out because their parents aren’t there to teach them what “respect” means.
We need to listen well to students who wrestle with drug and alcohol abuse at a young age because it’s all they’ve ever known.
We need to put our arms around kids who have never been told that someone loves them – no matter what they’ve done.
Everyone has a story. And, good or bad, I think I need to start listening better.