Youth Sunday - March 18, 2018
By Hannah Abernethy
I like to think that none of us are ever alone. But there are times throughout our lives when we feel lonely and lost. I’ve had those moments many times, but I can also tell you that God is always listening whether we realize it or not. And many times “when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that God carried us.” I would like to share a poem written by a local Boston high school student:
Run, if you can
Hide, if you can’t
If neither, fight
The fighting isn’t to save you
It’s to save the next class, the next hall
It’s to give them a couple more seconds
To get there, to stop it
I am a child, a teenager
But, I am also a bulletproof vest
A fighting chance for the others
Hope in the form of a distraction
I am blood and flesh
But I need to be kevlar and fabric
Minimal children dead
Minimal little girls and boys
Minimal college applicants
Minimal honors students
And minimal teachers and coaches
But, not none.
The Constitution doesn’t allow for none.
That document is living
But will I be?
There are so many people in this world that are in need of guidance and support, but the students in Parkland, Florida are the first that come to my mind. After one of the deadliest school shootings this country has experienced, students from Parkland are speaking out, trying to make a change. And they have started a national movement in hopes that all students will be able to feel safe in school.
Being a high school student in 2018 has its normal stresses of homework, getting good grades, applying to college and trying to get involved in as many activities as possible. Yet now, schools have become a far scarier place. Just last week in our school, we spent almost 30 minutes in a lockdown… lights off, doors locked, silence and everyone hidden away from the door. Just a few years ago this seemed like no big deal, yet now all I can think of is… this could be real… this could be us. We could be hearing gunshots. No student should ever have to fear for their safety, and it is now time to make a change. I want to be able to show all those that have been affected by school shootings that they are not alone. As a result, I joined with my South Windsor High School classmates and thousands of schools across the country to participate in a school wide walkout on Wednesday, March 14th at 10 a.m. We spent 17 minutes walking out to honor each of the lives taken in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Tens of thousands of high school students joining together to create change. To me, that is something remarkable, and I believe God is standing with all of us too, offering guidance. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2). Even in the midst of such tragedy, the light from God remains and students never feel a sense of loneliness.
But what about the high school students living on the reservation in South Dakota, where we'll be traveling this summer? They need our support too and that's exactly the reason why we're going to spend a week on the reservation, showing them that they too are never alone. In La Plant, South Dakota this will be no easy task, since many youth feel as though they have no one to turn to. Many live in abusive homes with parents addicted to drugs or alcohol. They don't have a support system. They don't have good role models to show them they can be successful and when asked what they would like to be when they grow up, many say “I don’t want to be anything.” But we’re here to provide support and show all these kids that they can have bright futures. We want to prove to them that we DO care, and we’re not going to strip them of their culture or their dignity anymore. Our SPF goal and the goal of Simply Smiles is to show these children and teens the love they deserve. We want them to trust us and form strong connections with us, so they never have to feel left alone. Having already been to South Dakota, I know how imperative it is for us to be there to support all the youth on the reservation. A simple game of Rez ball, jump rope, or letting the kids paint our entire faces is enough to begin to form these relationships. A new program has even been put in place for 2018 that focuses solely on the bonds between us as volunteers and the youth on the reservation, so that the kids can know their worth and feel supported.
All over the country, high schoolers are facing struggles, yet when we come together as one, we can create change. When students in Parkland are killed in their own school, youth stand up and walk out. When students in South Dakota face abuse and neglect and hopelessness, youth get on a plane and fly to spend a week with them. When someone in SPF is going through a difficult time, other youth in the group surround them with love and our prayers. When any among us is struggling, God carries us. God has called each of us by name and told us not to be afraid. No matter what, no matter who, no matter where, God promises us we are never alone. Amen.