originally published December 5, 2017
Written by Casey Lamont, Bend Youth Collective Volunteer since 2015
I’m a volunteer. To me, that means showing up.
I was in high school once … and I know how much I benefited from the love and support of coaches, friends’ parents, youth leaders, and other adults who showed upin my life.
This past summer I went on the Immersion trip to Seattle for two days. It was a whirlwind, but those two days reminded me of some of the reasons I love BYC so much.
We had fun, we shared new experiences, we laughed, we ate delicious meals, and we had space to share. On my last evening, after a very long day, I noticed something on the bus ride home. One of our students, who is usually quite talkative, wasn’t saying much. I asked the simple question “what are you thinking about?” And got so much more than I was expecting.
They shared how their past year had been extremely difficult for them. How they’d experienced loss, anger, and disappointment, and a million other emotions. And as they cried, they told me it was the first time they’d cried all year, despite experiencing all these emotions and hardships. I thought to myself, “What?!” My heart was breaking for this student. How was this kid holding it all together without anyone knowing? Why did they have to act like such a “grown-up” when they’re only 15? In those moments when I imagined feeling the weight of all their pain, I was glad that this teenager had another adult in their life that they could share with–that they had a space, even if just in this moment, when they could be them-self, their imperfect, beautiful, messy, complicated self.
And that is the exact place I want to be. Not because I had solutions. Not because I’d been in that same situation and could relate. But because I could sit next to a kid on the bus and give them a chance to share their story for the first time in a long time.
I volunteer with BYC because I believe that we could all use a few more people in our life who are just there. Nothing special, nothing extraordinary, just someone who shows up and can be themselves and accept and love the other just as they are.
I was drawn into the Bend Youth Collective because it’s a place that tirelessly seeks to welcome everyone, and whose deepest desire is for each individual teenager to be whole, to experience belonging, and to participate in peacemaking in a world in turmoil.
As someone who has been profoundly impacted by the love and acceptance of adults during my own adolescence, how could I not stand alongside these teenagers? These young people inspire me weekly. They bravely share their true selves with me and with the world, showing me more and more what it means to follow in the peacemaking way of Jesus.