Our students are wrapping up their school year. To them, it means multiple back-to-back days of prolonged recesses, loaded with play time, television, video games, snacks, laying around, not having to get fully dressed and sleeping in.
To the parents, it means the likelihood of more frequent episodes of unnecessary drama, quibbles with siblings and messes scattered about.
To those of us who don’t have children at home, it means we’ll be seeing and hearing more kids outside and in public places during the day. Unfortunately, it also means more fits in stores and more dangers in parking lots and neighborhoods as some will be running around, chasing balls and riding bicycles, scooters and skateboards, etc. There are even some of us concerned that more idle time for teens might mean more trouble in our communities. Some of us think all kinds of negative things about this new generation of young people.
I’ve been saying for years how impressed I am with the youth in our community. Still, I don’t know why they, as a whole, seem to be more polite, respectful and well-behaved than others in other communities. Maybe it’s because a lot of them are from rural areas and they are forced to learn much about life as they do hard chores, regularly. Maybe it’s because we have such a high concentration of military families that tend to expect their children to behave. Maybe it’s because we still have a lot of good old-fashioned parenting going on all around us. Of course, it could be a combination of these things. Whatever the cause, I’m deeply grateful to serve a community full of such outstanding young people.
Recently, my presumptions about the youth in our communities were confirmed. I was privileged to spend some time with middle-schoolers in the Yelm Community Schools District. As I figured, they were polite, respectful and well-behaved. However, some of them who knew me acted like they didn’t. Some seemed to work hard at trying to avoid striking up a conversation with me, avoiding any eye contact.
Most would think they were up to no good since they were avoiding acknowledging they knew me. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I began addressing them one-by-one as our paths crossed that day. Each time I initiated a conversation each student seemed to light up and act quite delighted we were talking. Some struggled to converse, but clearly wanted to linger near me, just happy I remembered them and their names.
I suspect many of us might see their initial behavior as rude and arrogant. After all, they tried so hard to avoid even making eye contact with me. Me? I know they weren’t being rude or arrogant at all. They’re middle-schoolers. They’re awkward as they struggle to find their way through adolescence. They’re in the middle of learning and embracing better social skills. They weren’t thinking things like, “Oh no, there’s Mr. Jeff (what I’m often called). Let’s try not to talk to him.” Instead, they were simply afraid to start a conversation and afraid I might not remember them.
They weren’t arrogant, but rather humble. They were so humble they thought it not worth the risk of engaging with me, fearing some form of rejection. People of faith, we must not judge things on the surface.
Join me in presuming the best in the youth among us, and enjoy summertime!
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.” – Jesus (Matthew 7:1-2, MSG)
Jeff Adams is pastor for Paramount Christian Church. His column appears weekly in the Nisqually Valley News. Email him at email@example.com.