Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I am a Starbucks slogan

During the holidays Starbucks uses fancy Christmas cups that have neat little sayings on them. Comforting, Christmassy things to say like "Today I talked with a stranger over coffee for an hour, they aren't a stranger anymore." And "I lost a friend a while ago, today I found her again over coffee." Those sorts of things. Last week I was there drinking my tea with some of my friends. They started reading off the sayings on their cups. At the end one of them looked at me and said "Funny, I think I've heard Carmen say all of these sentences at one point or another." We all laughed.
The thing is, today I was in Starbucks talking with a friend and a stranger came and sat beside us and entered our conversation. We talked for two hours. It was fascinating. So yes, I did talk to a stranger over coffee for an hour, we aren't strangers anymore.

you may be a youth worker if...

You may be a youth worker if you go home after work and google "paroxetine".

You may be a youth worker if you know all the names of the barista's at your local coffee shop.

You may be a youth worker if you know all the words to a Justin Beiber song.

You may be a youth worker if the sound of your cell ringing gives you a nervous twitch.

You may be a youth worker if you get hand cramps from too much texting.

You may be a youth worker if you spot self injury scars from 20 paces.

You may be a youth worker if you depend on your support team to keep you encouraged.

You may be a youth worker if the words "how does that make you feel" come out of your mouth at least three times a day.

You may be a youth worker if you know 3 different names for Marijuana.

You may be a youth worker if you get into conversations about parenting regularly with strangers in line at the store.

You may be a youth worker if crying in public no longer makes you uncomfortable.

You may be a youth worker if a question you asked made someone cry in public today.

You may be a youth worker if vacation just means you talk to teens in Hawaii for a week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I see you

It's struck me this week that my life is having more impact on people then I realize. And that's saying something, because it's my JOB to impact people's lives in a positive way! A someone shared something with me the other day that really opened my eyes to this. They told me that me noticing them when nobody else did is the reason they are here today.
Today I got to sit on a couch and listen to one of my teens play a song on the piano that she wrote herself. (She also taught herself how to play the piano in the first place!) After she finished playing I told her that I saw a story in her song. A story that's filled with imperfection. I told her that I think it's her story told in a song and that I thought it was beautiful but that it sounded unfinished. Or like that was just the soundtrack to the first act, and that there would be more to come. She really is incredible and I can't wait to hear the rest of her song once it gets written. We got on the subject of seeing people. Really seeing them. "Remember in the movie Avatar? How the indigenous people there had the expression 'I see you' but it meant something really deep? Like they truly see and understand that person. In your song today I see you. It's powerful to see people. We live in a world where we are constantly anonymous." We had a great conversation about the power of "seeing" people.
Talking about it reminded me of that conversation I had earlier. The reason why that girl was so impacted was because I saw her. I noticed her. And that's why she is here today.
I challenge everyone who reads this to take the time today to truly see someone.


I was hanging out with a teen the other day and we had some time to kill before going to my house for Girls Monday. I've been keeping some books in my car for her and so we took this opportunity to read some. I was quickly trying to read the five chapters of my bible study book that I was supposed to have finished by that night, and she picked up the book "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Millar. We sat in Starbucks reading while sipping some hot holiday drinks. Every once in a while she would giggle and read to me something that she found amusing or profound. At one of these times she read to me a passage that talked about how we edit bible stories to make them G rated. We teach the story of Noah's arc in sunday school classes to kindergarteners because it's a story with animals. We have murals on the walls of our nurseries of a boat with giraffe's heads sticking out the top. What if we painted the rest of the story? The bloated floating bodies of all the people who died in the flood? That's an R rated story if I've ever heard one! This teen and I talked about how we edit bible stories so they don't mean what God intended for them to mean. Then we get an image of what God is like that isn't true.
The truth is that we try to change what God looks like to make Him seem more appealing, but we shouldn't. Because that fake God we make up isn't as appealing as we think he is. People who are honest don't want a soft gooey god, they want a strong disciplining challenging God they can trust. Let me rephrase that. I don't want a giant soft bunny with Santa Clause traits for a god. I want a God that I can follow into battle with full confidence.
This teen told the story of Noah's arc this way "It's like God sat down at his galactic computer, selected the world and hit Delete. Then a little box popped up that said "Are you sure you want to Delete this file?" and he hit "Yes".

Friday, November 5, 2010

selling hope

I just came home from a meeting in Starbucks with a potential supporter to whom I made a presentation about what I do. The meeting went very well. I always enjoy talking with people who are passionate about youth, it gets me pumped up all over again! Anyways, we stood up and were saying our "nice talking to you's" and "goodbyes" when the lady who had been sitting at the table next to us interrupted. "You are a wonderful person" she told me. I smiled and asked her name. She apologized for eaves dropping and asked about my ministry. We chatted for a bit and it turns out she is a sales rep from toronto who sells disposable rubber gloves to major companies like Starbucks. She told me "I'm in sales, and you my dear, could sell a refrigerator to an eskimo." I laughed at that.
On my drive home I thought about what she had said. Could I sell a fridge to an eskimo? Maybe if I truly believed they needed one! But what I do is so much easier then that. Why? Because of the product I sell. I sell hope. And I don't sell it, I just offer to lead people to it. They don't have to pay a thing. But there are some people who pay for that to happen. My wonderful supporters who believe in spreading hope to teens so much that they are willing and excited to support me financially so that I can give hope to those who need it.
I love my job. I sell hope.