It took me all of two-point-five seconds to tell Donna Martin that I would love to help out with the Youth of the Year participants. About two-point-five hours later, I said to myself, “Wait! Teenagers???”
Hero’s journey, refusal of the call to adventure, I had it.
I knew about teenagers. I’d raised three of them myself. Wonderful girls. But teenagers who weren’t mine? Community college freshmen were enough of a challenge?
I remained doubtful right up to the moment when I met my first group of Youth of the Year participants.
The teens who have been chosen for the Youth of the Year journey have all demonstrated leadership qualities. They are involved in their Club communities and are role models to younger members. In short, they are delightful, even when they are being high-energy, boisterous, teens!
These kids worked so hard that my road of trials consisted of trying to stay ahead of them. They answered the story prompts, learned to craft their stories, drew storyboards and had fun. All too soon, it was time for my first Youth of the Year story circle.
As I sat with the participants, I fought the temptation to speak, to make encouraging noises, to do anything to break the silence that had settled over the group. I knew some of the stories could be difficult to tell. I also knew that it was out of my hands. It was time to shut up and wait.
Longest two-point-five minutes of my life.
Then, one by one, on their own schedule, each one of these kids stood up and told a story. We heard stories of pain and beauty and pain and hope. The stories that needed to be told.
When it was all over, the kids all wrapped themselves into a spontaneous group hug. They were already stars and they knew it.
I’ve been back for every Youth of the Year Journey since then. Now I want to help other people do the same kind of thing with the teenagers in their lives.