This past Sunday, our church celebrated a milestone for an overseas orphanage that we support. Music kicked in and various people walked out holding large pictures of children from the orphanage with their first names boldly placed at the bottom. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds walked out carrying these pictures, each effectively capturing a baby’s personality and his or her name.
The line kept coming, one by one, and the line stretched around the large gym. As the 100th picture came out, the picture-holders all held up their photos above their heads and the 500 or so people broke out into applause. They effect was overwhelming and many wiped away tears. They knew what had taken place to get to this point – the massive amount of giving, the coordination with a fantastic mission agency, our hosts who guided our efforts, the numerous trips back and forth, the countless hours of construction and hard work, and even those who spent more than a few months to help in any way they could. Each picture represented the reason for this effort. And it was more than touching.
I love athletics. The combination of mental focus, physical prowess, and disciplined development provides a challenge on the court, course, or field that fascinates me. Most sports capture my attention as I watch people compete and strive for better performance. Sometimes this ambition loses sight of the sport’s basics: Throwing strikes in baseball, shooting a basketball through the hoop, or keeping your eyes on the tennis ball. (I know, it’s an American list) Sports announcers will note that a person needs to do the basics (e.g. footwork) to improve.
I’ve thought this week about the basics of being human. What is it that those of us made in the image of God need to do at a basic level before we get so ambitious that we lose sight of its value? Do the right thing.
The teacher approached the front of the room, turned to face his audience, and then began to talk. And talk. He handed out an “outline” of her talk, which consisted of a list of quotes from a book. He occasionally asked a question, received one response, and then he’d state her opinion (which often contradicted the view offered) and move on to the next quote. When the 30 minutes ended, I wasn’t clear on what the point was, a view shared by others nearby (based on what we overheard).
At my Teach Like You Believe It seminars, and in my teaching at Bethel College, I have been surprised at the struggle people have toward developing clear objectivse for their teaching, often called teaching aims. Tonight thousands of youth workers will stand in front of a group of teenagers and teach. If each developed beforehand a single sentence that defined what they wanted to accomplish, they could then do one final “edit” on their lesson (discussion, lecture, small groups) and evaluate potential effectiveness. But evidently many don’t develop their aim.
I occasionally watch a TV show that features “high school” kids and I look at them with a developmental eye and think, “It’s been a long time since they were teenagers.” It started for me when Happy Days was the most popular show in the 1970s, featuring a cast of actors who were very mature for high schoolers. During the first season, Ron Howard was 20 years old, but played young high schooler “Richie Cunningham.” Don Most (Ralph Malph) was 21 while Anson Williams (Warren “Potsie) was 24 years old. Henry Winkler, who played dropout Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli was 29 years old in the first season, though meant to depict a high school – aged kid.
The phenomenon of an older actor playing a teenager is nothing new. Directors who use college-aged students or older get a more developed voice, greater poise, and a more developed physique than from younger less-trained actors. If the show includes singing and dancing, the voices are stronger with greater range and tone, and the dancing is stronger.
“The problem with teens today is…. well…. uh…… well SOMETHING is the problem. It sure looks like it to me.” I sometimes hear this from adults, but often it’s unclear what the actual problem is. And, despite encouraging facts about teens today, it seems like we can’t escape thinking there are a LOT of problems with youth today. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- In regard to sexual desire they exercise no self-restraint
- They are fickle in their desires
- They are apt to be carried away by their impulses
- They regard themselves as omniscient and are positive in their assertions
- If they commit a fault, it is always on the side of excess.
One of the dangers in writing about the youth of the world is that we take away their “voice.” We don’t really listen to them and their plight, we just tell the world what we think the issues are. If you listen to the youth of the world when they speak of the future, you’d hear a resounding concern about their economic futures. Some already feel the pain of impoverishment and are forced to work as slaves, low-level labor, or trafficked away. Others who grow up in healthier situations, look at their corrupt government or poor economy and realize their only hope will come via immigration (legal or otherwise).
The recent statistics of youth unemployment from the International Labor Organization show a continued rise in the number of unemployed youth (youth is defined as 15-24 years of age) in the world. Over 13% of the world’s youth are unemployed, a jump of over 1% in the last year, the largest increase on record. 152 million young people live in households that earn less than $1.25 a day.
Take out a sheet of paper. Any size will do just fine. Draw yourself, a stick figure works for me, in the middle of the paper. Then draw a large circle around the outside of the paper, with “you” standing in the middle. Ok, it may look more like an oval than a circle, but it still works.Imagine that the circle represents an area, either real or symbolic, around us. It may function like a “sphere of influence” does in geography or economics.
What do people experience when they step into this zone? Write down a few of the first thoughts that come to mind. Think of those who work with you. As they come and go across this artificial border, what is the effect? As you look out toward the edge of influence, what is your focus on those in range?