Boys will be boys.

At Music Camp, Fran McKendree comes to spend the week with us and lead our chorus time. He helps with Rock Band and worship and work projects too, but chorus is the highlight of the day for all of us, and Fran’s music and presence is a tremendous gift to us.

This morning at all camp chorus Fran led us in a song he taught us years ago. The song comes from Malawi, and the words repeat: Da ku o na moni.

The song loosely translates to: I greet you with my eyes, I greet you with my heart. I know that God is in our midst, I greet you with respect.

He asks us to partner up and sing this song to one another – looking into each other’s eyes. There are hand motions we use with each repetition. Moving our hands from our eyes to the person we are facing. Motioning from our heart to theirs. Moving our arms up and towards one another. And at the end, a small bow of respect.

I tend to be pretty comfortable with most spiritual practices, but I’ll be honest that the vulnerability required to sing this song catches me off guard each time we do it. As a culture we don’t spend much time looking into one another’s eyes. Asking a room full of teenagers to do it – over and over – in small and large groups always feels like a big ask to me. But each year – with no hesitation – everyone participates, and they are all in. Each year it brings me to tears watching the way they greet one another.

But this year, something in particular struck me while I was watching the group sing and dance today. I noticed the boys – the young men – who were singing and dancing and motioning from one heart to another.

These boys did not hold back. They didn’t hesitate. They just starting singing and moving and acknowledging God in their midst. Watch some of them here:

Aren’t they great? I noticed them right away. And within moments of seeing them together my heart started to do that melty thing it does at camp all the time.

I started to think about what it’s like to be a young man in America in 2019. How there’s a needed push for an end to toxic masculinity but still enough toxic masculinity around that it’s hard to find an abundance of role models about how to be instead. I started thinking about how much pressure there is on young males – and teens in general – to be “cool” and “popular” – to dress a certain way and act a certain way. I thought about how they are told that they can’t be too arrogant but they also can’t be too sensitive and how hard (impossible) it must be to find that perfect middle ground. I thought about how desperately we need vulnerable, faithful, joyful, brave men to help us bring about a much needed culture change. We need men who will show great love and enthusiasm for one another, and who will help change the world in all the best ways.

I realized as I watched the boys dance in front of me that if they can just harness this feeling – this joy and love and openness that they experience at camp – and figure out how to live this way in their lives outside of ECC, they WILL be the change we need in the world.

Here’s more. You can see it too:

My eyes were leaking at this point, as Fran encouraged the group to gather in a big circle, still singing. He asked if anyone felt inspired to jump into the circle to dance. And who jumped right into the circle?

Boys. Teenage boys.

(and one girl)

I worry about the state of our world a lot. Who doesn’t, right? But I have to tell you, for these minutes this morning I felt so much hope.

Boys will be boys.

We hear it all the time. We’ve identified it as part of the problem behind some of the toxic masculinity that can be so dangerous in our culture today. But watching these boys this morning all I could think was, boys WILL be boys. And here’s what that means at ECC:

Boys will dance. Boys will sing. Boys will cry. Boys will look one another in the eye and acknowledge God’s presence in their midst. Boys will pray. Boys will do musical theater. Boys will play sports and boys will play instruments. Boys will be boys even when they were born with female body parts. Boys will be silly. Boys will hug. Boys will laugh. Boys will support. Boys will forgive. Boys will love.

And these boys? I’m convinced they will change the world.

Kids These Days

Go ahead and tell me teenagers are terrible. Do it. Go on.

Because I’ll fight you.

I know, I know – they are self absorbed (so were we). And they take selfies all the time (allow me to show you my photos of my 9th grade trip to Paris where I took 6 rolls of film, mostly of myself standing in from of some historical landmark). They are entitled (not their fault actually, that’s on us).

I don’t care what you say. You just can’t convince me they are terrible. I have seen far too much good.

Take this week, for example. It’s Bridge Camp – my most favorite time of the year: when ECC welcomes campers with special needs to come spend a week at camp and high school students come and make sure they have an awesome experience. It’s heaven on earth, people.

HEAVEN. ON. EARTH.

Our Bridge Campers are the most fun, gentle, loving, hysterical, smart, kind, and wonderful people on the planet. They come through the gates of this camp and they just bust our hearts right open from the minute they step out of the car.

I’ve worked with people with special needs for 20 years on and off, and I love every single thing about them. But the thing that most inspires me is the way they live without inhibition. They experience the whole range of emotion and human experience as the rest of us, but they don’t always get hung up on the expectations of the world and our dreadful societal norms. When they are sad, they cry. When they are angry, they yell or sulk. When they are happy, they dance.

Oh, if we could all live this way.

But the best part about Bridge Camp (and I dare say ECC in general) is that once camp starts rolling we all become inspired to live with the same open-heartedness. Our high school campers (helper campers) are SO nervous when they greet the Bridge Campers and their parents. They want to do it right – they want to make a good impression, and connect with the Bridge Camper, and help them feel at home. They try so hard, and for the most part they get it just right.

Then, after about an hour has passed: magic happens. Everyone relaxes, friendships form, laughter erupts – and we are all transported to this incredible place that I am convinced is a preview of the Kingdom of God.

And then what happens? Well, a group of supposedly self-absorbed, narcissistic, entitled teenagers start tripping over themselves to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make sure that our Bridge Campers have the time of their lives.

It is so stunning to behold.

Like these two – awake early, and sitting in the pavilion coloring and chatting:


Or this teen, playing guitar because the camper she’s paired with loves music:

Or this teen, making sure her camper can find her place during Compline:

And come on – get a load of these sweet faces, making sure the camp has popcorn at the carnival:

Then there’s this group – just relaxing on the front lawn taking in a little sensory time.

I could show you a thousand photos. Everywhere you look at this camp it’s just sheer beauty. Every year I want to tell you all about it, but it’s so good, so beautiful – it’s hard to find words.

But this year, I had to try. These teenagers, they deserve a little positive PR. They are so kind. So tender. Insert all the good things I could possibly say, because I mean them all.

Just go ahead and watch this video of some of our campers singing together today (yes, that’s Jen crying in the background. We adults spend the whole week crying – there’s no getting around it).

How’s that for beautiful? “Make our way to a world that we design…”

We’ve just got it all wrong when it comes to teens. They want to be good. They want an opportunity to help others, to make an impact, to share love. You know who’s generous, hard-working, faithful, and fabulous?

Kids these days.

See the video of our whole week together here: