Tonight I went to Willow Springs to do some water aerobics and when I got there, my heart sort of sank. As soon as I drove onto the parking lot, I saw not one bus but about six and I thought, "Wow! That's a lot of kids!" Then, while I was trying to decide where to park, I noticed that the buses were from various churches that I'd never heard of. On closer inspection, I realized that the buses were, not just from out of town, but from out of state. As Alice would say, things got curious-er and curious-er.
When I got in the pool, even though there were about 140 young people in the water, there was more than enough free space to swim and exercise and in fact, at first, I wondered where all the kids were. I could see young people splashing down the water slide and doing their best to push each other off the Willow Wipe Out but it didn't seem like that many kids to me. Then I heard a huge shout and saw that a bunch of guys were playing water volleyball hard and fast, egging each other on and having a ton of fun, just like the kids on the Willow Wipe Out and the water slide were.
That's not unusual to see kids having fun at the park but something still struck me as odd. Then I realized what it was. There was not one sour face in the bunch. While I walked around the pool, exercising my joints, I never saw an adult having to take a kid aside and talk to them about their attitude. I never heard one word of profanity and with that many kids, I think that's pretty remarkable. And I never saw a life guard having to get onto anyone.
So I started watching the kids and I noticed something else, every single girl was either wearing a one piece suit or she had a colored tee-shirt and running shorts on over her bathing suit. And they were beautiful young women, every one of them. Not only were they beautiful, but they had something else, that hard to define spark of something that I've seen in Katie Davis's pictures. I realized that I was looking at radiant joy, personality plus, basically seeing young ladies who were fun-loving, competitive, and sure of themselves.
And yet there was still something more. Something that I saw reflected in all the young people, both guys and girls. Joy, yes. Wholesomeness, yes. Fun-loving, yes. Good natured, yes. But there was still something else.
And as I thought about it, I realized what it was.
These kids are part of World Changers and that is their focus - changing the world and making it a better place. Instead of self-consciously working to draw attention to themselves, they seemed almost totally unaware of how they looked or how they were coming across. I didn't see the typical things such as two girls angling away from the group at large, darting unhappy looks at some other girls and saying things like, "I just hate the way they act so stuck up all the time ..." I didn't hear guys exchanging heated insults as the game became really competitive. I didn't hear one young person whining to an adult about how they were bored, hungry, ticked off, and/or ready to go home. I didn't hear one person complaining about something that wasn't "fair" and I didn't see any prima donas in that group. Just a bunch of young people having a great time, largely because their focus is simply not on themselves.
Instead their focus is on Jesus first. And on helping others second.
And if they weren't happy tonight, they sure fooled me.
These young people spend their days doing things to help the elderly, such as painting houses, doing yard work, etc. They also are ready to teach the Bible and pray for those who are in need. They spend their days working hard, selflessly, giving to others in the name of Jesus.
And at the end of the day, they are ready to play and play hard but still mindful of the fact that they are Jesus' kids and it's all about Him. Their dress, their speech, their fair-minded competitiveness, and their joyful obedience spoke volumes to me about who these kids are and what they stand for.
But even beyond that, it convinced me that our culture has sold our young people a bill of goods and it's not the young people's fault. We've taught them that to be happy, the spotlight has to be on them. That to be happy they have to dress provocatively and do whatever else is necessary to get others to notice them and/or to be "cool". Basically we've taught them, through the media primarily, that life is all about them and not about others. And it's small wonder that there is so much teen-age angst and so much drama associated with young people. Young people were never meant to bear that kind of pressure.
I'm really sorry that we've managed to sell some of this younger generation a bill of goods.
But I'm even more thankful - and so impressed - to see a large group of young people who just aren't buying it and who have found the real path to joy.
These kids will indeed change the world.