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: