This is the time of year for graduations. I realize that there are all levels of graduations these days as we celebrate graduations at many different levels; there are preschool, kindergarten,  middle school, high school, college, and post college level graduations. Perhaps since my youngest child graduated from high school this year, my mind has naturally been most focused on high school graduates. I just seem to be noticing the graduating high school seniors in the community more this year and such was the case this past Saturday. I was returning home from doing some errands and pulled up at a red light and next to me was a car that was almost rocking from the volume of the music that was being played. Four girls were in the car, the girl in the front passenger seat had her window completely down with her right leg propped up and sticking out of the window. The car had been decorated with words written all over it; some of the writing was girls’ names… EMILY, AMBER,  KRYSTAL, JESS,  but several of the words were slogans and phrases that were fairly tasteless to put it mildly. One particular phrase that was not tasteless but caught my eye which was in all capital letters was  CLASS OF 2009 -  FREE AT LAST. The girls were jamming to the music , two of them were smoking cigarettes in the front seat and the two girls in the back seat were both texting on their cell phones. As the light began to turn to green, the girl driving immediately began to accelerate, however a car coming from the right in the intersection attempted to sneak through on a late yellow light, forcing the driver of the girls’ car to jam on the breaks to avoid a collision. Angered by the actions of the driver who had almost caused an accident, the driver laid on her horn, and began yelling expletives at that other car as she is also raising her middle finger at him. Her friends in the car all began laughing wildly as the car peeled out and took off down the road. I have to admit that I only thought about the wreckless attitude and spirit of these girls for just a moment or two because like many of us, I have witnessed this sort of scene many times before with young people in the community. The next day however on Sunday is when I really began to reflect on the actions of these girls in the car the day before.  I am certain that several readers at this juncture may be thinking it odd that I began to dwell on those girls the following day (yesterday)  instead of when the incident occurred. There was however, a specific reason for my delayed thoughts which was that yesterday, I observed some young ladies that portrayed such a sharp contrast to the those girls in that car the day before. The difference was so stark, so striking, that my mind could not help but dwell on the huge gap between these two groups of young girls.

       You see, yesterday I was in my church which celebrates what we call “teen month”.  We celebrate this month in this way each May since that is the graduation time and the end of the school year for our Christian school that is affiliated with our church. As part of the teen month festivities, the seniors who are graduating each year give a public testimony to the entire congregation. It is their opportunity to speak to the church about their lives, their faith, their past experiences and future plans. These testimonies take place all throughout the month and so we have already heard most of the seniors speak and all have done a remarkable job. Yesterday, there remained just two seniors to give their testimonies , both girls , one spoke in the morning service and one spoke in the evening service. I have to tell you, as I was sitting there in my seat listening to each of these young 17-18 year old ladies speak, the incident from the day prior kept flashing in my mind. I was overwhelmed by the comparison between that scene and what I was witnessing as I sat and listened in church. These two girls were simply telling the congregation what they have learned in their years growing up, what different people meant to them, and they shared their future plans as well.  They spoke in a respectful and loving manner about their youth leaders, their pastor, their parents and other folks who have played a significant role in their lives. Both of them struggled with their emotions because of the gratitude and love that they felt for others who have poured so much into them, who have invested in them and they just wanted to honor these special people in their lives. More importantly, they each talked about their faith in God, and how they have grown in their spiritual life and in various decisions that each of them has made. As I was sitting there listening to these fine young ladies speak and as I remembered the testimonies of all of the other seniors as well that were given this month , what I felt could be described in one word…REFRESHED. I do not know if I can do an adequate job of explaining how wonderfully refreshing it was to see and hear from these young people this past month. It simply was like a breath of fresh air after the day to day saturation that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by in daily observation of many of our young people today. Words that could have described those young girls in the car that day are caustic, coarse, wreckless, profane and careless. Words that I kept thinking of as I heard the two young girls in give their testimonies yesterday were humble, joyful, grateful, peaceful and faithful. I was blown away by the contrast. At this point , many of you may be thinking that I am being boastful or feeling righteous and almost gloating or bragging on the teenagers of our church. I can honestly say that while I am indeed proud of them, that is not my intent or sentiment at all. My sentiment is one of feeling a sense of urgency for the girls in the car and our young people today in general. I do not view those girls in the car with a sense of judgment and condemnation as much as I see them as kids that we must desperately reach. There is no way to look into the futures of those girls to see what lies before them, but it is a safe statement to say, that if their mindset, if their behaviors, if their character does not change, then they may very well be headed for much difficulty and heartache. On the flip side, neither are our seniors at church who spoke guaranteed successful , happy , fulfilled lives simply because they have started well. If they do not continue to lean on, depend on, and look to God who so intensely loves them , then they also will be opening themselves up for much hurt and hardship in the years to come. I want to emphasize that I am not trying to lift one group up over another as much as I am merely trying to convey that the difference between  what I observed on Saturday as opposed to what I then observed just one day later on Sunday was so stark that it arrested my thoughts as I was sitting there in church. The answer is to purpose to reach out to those kids in that car, those kids with multiple piercings, those kids who seem out of control and a little intimidating. Too often we as Christians are put off by these kids and we can sometimes find ourselves mentally stiff arming them when all they may need is an arm around them. We find ourselves intimidated by them when really, some of them are just without direction in their lives , are lonely, and almost hoping that someone who cares will connect with them. As those girls in the car peeled out that day, I am ashamed to say that I found myself feeling negatively about them when I really should have said a prayer for them. Recognizing that wrong reaction within ourselves and trying to correct it is really the answer to bridging that gap. It won’t be easy because it is not natural to us to want to help those that we do not know very well or do not know at all and therefore will demand that we leave our comfort zones. If we endeavor to do so however, the rewards will be great. Let’s be determined to reach out and in so doing, we will hopefully make a difference and that difference just might make the contrast of those two groups of girls just a little less sharp!