Youth Service Senior Reflection
April 10, 2011
I have been involved with this church since I was about 5 years old. So that would mean I have spent 13/18ths of my life as a UU. My start at this church was nothing too extraordinary. I have it on good authority that one day I simply asked my parents “Why don’t we go to church?” And my parents in their clairvoyant wisdom picked this church and we started attending. From there I progressed through the church in the somewhat typical fashion. I attended Sunday school, did the musicals, and sang in the choir. Then I move forward into COA then Youth Group, and now I am giving my reflection to the church community. And I am grateful and happy for all the time that I have spent with this church.
Youth Group as been the perfect extension of the church into my teenage life. It has allowed me to explore my own beliefs and values, but always with a sense of support and encouragement. Driving to church on Sunday nights is one of the best ways to close a week that I can think of. Because at Youth Group I know I will find a group of people who are supportive and fun in a way no other group is. Some of these people I have grown up with, I have spent countless hours hanging around with. It is a miracle our grade hasn’t gotten sick of each other with the amount of time we have spent together. But in fact we have only grown closer and fonder of each other. Well that not entirely true. There have been times when other Youth Groupers, certainly not me, have gotten on each others nerves. But such occurrences are few and far between, and here the thing, they are forgiven. The people here want to like each other, so do. Some of the people in Youth Group I have only gotten to know this year, and would not have gotten to know without Youth Group. That to me speaks volumes about the importance of this church. Too often we isolate ourselves; Youth Group has been a way to connect.
As a sophomore I was lucky enough to go on my first Youth Group service trip down to Mississippi and New Orleans. While there, in addition to all the service work, I was hustled out of ten dollars, I tried fried catfish or the first time, I was emphatically told by a six year old that I was genius for being able to multiply 6 times 20 (120 by the way) and I sunburned my nose in the middle of February. At the end of the trip, one of the senior guys looked at me and, said “You know, I really would rather just do this for the rest of the year”. And I feigned my agreement. But in reality, I wanted to go home. I had TV to catch up on, schoolwork to do, and I was a bit sick of service. This year I went on my second Youth Group service trip to Arizona. While there I managed to beat a seven year old at pool, I saw a desert for the first time, and yes I got sunburned on my nose in the middle of February. But at the end of this trip, I was truly ready to stay. I was perfectly content to stay in Arizona, with this cast of characters, and do what we could there. I’m happy that I have made that transition.
If the church has taught me one thing in our thirteen year relationship it is, “be a good person”. And if Youth Group as taught me on thing over the past few years it is, “be yourself”. These two tidbits may not seem extremely sophisticated or complex, and they are not. But sometimes the greatest truths are the most simple. Be a good person, be yourself. That is very easy to say, but it takes many people a lifetime to be able to do. But with the support I have gotten from this church, this community, and these people, I think I have a good head start.
So now I’m supposedly ready to go off into the world, more specifically the world of higher education. I may find a UU church wherever I go, but I know I won’t find exactly what I got here. But I’ve learned a lot hear, I think I’ll be ok out there. At least I hope so. It was nice having this as I was growing up. It was nice having all of you as I was growing up. Connections are where happiness truly lies. Other people make us who we are. And judging by what you see before you, the “other people” in this church have done a pretty good job. I jest of course. I am so grateful for that opportunities and growth that this has given me. Thank you. I will leave you now with the words of Youth Group hall of famer Michael Griffin: “Do what you want when want, unless it is bad. Then don’t do that”. Have a nice day, be good and do good.