Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Their Own Words

In last week Wednesday's blog, I asked the question, "Can you hear them?" encouraging us to make space in our life to attend to high school students. This recognizes that they want us to take them and their words seriously as we get to know and engage them in God's love story. Part of this hearing comes as we sit and listen. Patricia Lyons encourages us to do this in her new book, The Soul of Adolescence: In Their Own Words. She writes: "What matters to me is what matters to adolescents. If you care about the life and health of adolescents, then you know already that it is more important that young people understand that we are listening to them than it is that we understand what they are saying. . . . love does justify anyone who tries to listen to another soul" (Lyons 2010, 11). Here, Lyons is saying that issues important to adolescents are important to her and that those who are interested in and attending to their well-being have discovered that our listening counts more than our grasping, with love being the legitimization for deep listening to the inner core of adolescents. This reminds us that we cannot presume to understand if we have not first loved and listened.

In The Soul of Adolescence, Lyons quotes the words of an adolescent who has just made the move from Elementary School to help us understand where young people are:
I don't ever remember feeling limited in grade school. You could join everything then. But now . . . no deal. Everywhere I turn, I get shut out, not picked, not cast, and not even called to hang out! I had do idea how few things I'm ok enough to do
. (Lyons 2010, 29)

We know that the transition from elementary to middle and high school is challenging as young people face a new reality that in some ways is more reflective of the wider world. They move from a more nurturing, protective setting to one that is much open. However, hearing it "in their own words" can give us a deeper, more urgent awareness of the cost of this transition as we sense the underlying frustration and inadequacy bordering on hopelessness. As we listen in love, can we pray for wisdom to help our students in this transition as they journey in their new environment?

How well do you hear the words of your middle and high school students in their sojourn? How is God calling you to journey with them?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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