“That’s my creative son, he’s very artistic. And the other one, he is my athletic son. Oh, and my daughter, she is the smart one—a real good student.”
Listening to this parent describe their children as we stood on the sideline watching our children play soccer, I wondered if and how I categorize my children.
Far too often, we pigeon-hole people into neat little categories. Let’s be honest: it’s easier to navigate the complexity of our fellow human beings if we can put them into boxes. The reality is, however, we too often end up somewhere between stereotyping and profiling, completely limiting a person from living into the fullness of who they were created to be.
Personally, one of the greatest lessons of my young adult life took place at camp. At camp I was provided the space to explore more of who I was. In fact, at the core of camp, youth, formation and even good education, is the creation of a container in which young people feel both safe and inspired to explore, even making choices that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making in other places.
For those of us privileged to work with young people, one of the greatest things we get to do is to wonder with young people about the gifts they may uniquely possess, but may not have felt comfortable or supported in exploring. One of the hurdles that is necessary in this shared journey is to help the young person navigate around comparing themselves to others. Whether they are siblings, friends, celebrities, others appear to be much more gifted in comparison.
At the core of this companionship is the opportunity to discover the ways the Holy Spirt uniquely moves in each of our lives.
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. [. . .] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Like I said last week, for over a decade, whether it was at a youth event, camp, confirmation, or school, I have had countless occasions to be with young people. At every opportunity, I have said it was absolutely critical that they fully embrace the reality that each and every one of them was uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit. My reasoning for being so emphatic about this is simple: the sooner in your journey you can discover, embrace, and utilize the unique gifts you have been given, the sooner you can move forward to live out your call to love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.
And honestly, one of the things that makes me feel so blessed to have served in ECMN is that thousands of young people have not only heard this truth, but are clearly embracing it today. Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself—change the world.