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.
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.