We can listen to our high school students and really hear them. But then, what next? Accompaniment. It is important that our youth know that having heard them, we will not abandon them. They have not shocked or bored us by what they have said to the point where we then drop them and move on. Rather, they can count on us for spiritual and moral support. We will be present and listen again empathetically if they need us. We will pray for them. We will study God's Word together to hear what the Spirit will say in the situation. We are invested in their growth and well-being. Moreover, we will not consign them to the judgment of our culture which is often superficial, demanding, and soul-destroying.
I find Patricia Lyons' words to be very penetrating. They come in a section of The Soul of Adolescence where she challenges the way in which adults often, by buying in uncritically to the culture's notions of success, belittle and ignore the accomplishments and contributions of adolescents. She writes: Our work of intervention as adults should instead be to construct and support a child's inner life, to fill them with authentic truths about their immutable dignity and worth. . . . Teens need us to rescue them from the world's shallowness, not teach them to swim in it" (Lyons 2010, 57). This means that our focus should be on how we enrich the inner core of the students rather than simply giving them tools for navigating the tides of their times. This implies that the two can be potentially mututally exclusive and/or that focusing on where students live deep within and building that up will go a farther way to helping them live and participate in society.
The task of soul-building calls for journeying side-by-side. Will you accompany them? How do you help the teenagers to thrive within?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor