I’m writing this post as I travel back from a youth camp. It was a great experience in many ways, but it also left me feeling heartbroken and humbled.
My heart aches for the teenagers who don’t know what it means to be loved. And for those who experience neglect and abuse as part of their daily lives. It saddens me that you can no longer ask them about their parents, and that instead, you have to ask, “Who lives in your house?”, because all too often mum and dad aren’t around.
And probably most of all, I find it devastating that so many of them don’t know their worth. One night at camp we held a formal dinner, with everyone dressing up, the girls being pampered with hair and makeup, and the boys decorating the ‘restaurant’ (camp dining hall) and waiting on the girls with their meals. The male camp leaders picked the girls up, gave them a rose (yes, think The Bachelor ha ha), and escorted them to dinner, where the guys all cheered and clapped for them.
What amazed me was that this beautiful event was initially quite traumatic for some of the girls. They were exceptionally nervous at being picked up and presented to the guys, with some even in tears. They questioned their beauty and felt undeserving of attention and care.
Yet, some of my favourite camp moments came from this night. I loved hearing the girls tell me how special the night had been. It made me smile when they decorated our cabin with their roses and carefully packed them up to take home. And, it brought a tear to my eye as we had conversations about how they deserved to be treated well by a guy – that he should recognise and value their beauty, and do things to make them feel special. And, it seemed, they got it. I know they’ll take home lots of memories from camp, but above all else I hope they remember how precious they are.
And, this was what humbled me… I am no more deserving of love than any of them. I didn’t earn a place in a loving family. I was just incredibly blessed to be born in the family I was. Especially, to have a dad who showed me love, taught me to look for love in the right places, and showed me that I deserved to be ‘romanced’ (Yes, my Dad brought me roses. And, was the perfect ‘I love walks on the beach and picnics in the park’ newspaper ad for love ha ha – do you ever read those? Well… as I was growing up, my Dad and I often went for such walks, chatting about life and eating Cherry Ripes).
Camp also made me realise how disconnected I can be, at times, from those around me who need a little loving. I feel like my own teenage years are a zillion light-years past. I don’t speak the lingo of youth today (although I have learnt this week what a twelvie is). And I quite often feel like I can’t relate to their lives. But, this week, I saw how much the same we are – we all want to be loved, appreciated, valued, acknowledged and made to feel special. And, I rediscovered how easy it is to give that to someone – to just give them some of my time, to hangout and have fun, to listen and talk, to comfort someone as they cry, and to share a little of what I know with those who’ve not yet journeyed as far as I have in life.
I find it interesting when people question why God allows pain and suffering (I’m not going to go into that right now). More so, though, I wonder… why do we?
So, that’s my challenge for myself at the moment, to try and be more consciously aware of those around me, and to go out of my comfort zone to show love to those who may otherwise never experience it.
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