Yesterday I walked into a high school for the first time in a long time and I realized just now much I’d forgotten, not academically (although that’s not completely untrue), but socially and emotionally. I’d forgotten what it feels like to walk down a grungy hallway with doors slamming, seeing kids loitering in the hallways, desperate to get five minutes out of class. I’d forgotten what it feels like to walk through a cafeteria, knowing I have a swarm of eyes on me, picking apart my exterior. I’d forgotten what it looks like to see kids so much younger than me getting ready to have their own kids, getting ready to become moms while their friends are getting ready for their junior year. I’d forgotten what it feels like to look a kid in the eyes and see how hurt and alone they are, just trying to get through the day. I’d forgotten what it sounds like to hear kids yelling and pushing each other, making threats between classes and reinforcing the social order.
Let me preface this by saying I was wandering around this high school for the first time because I was placed as a Young Life leader last week, which means I’ve been assigned to this school with the aim of bringing kids to Jesus, but with the side duties of hanging out with kids at lunch, going to their sports games, and proving I’m really not as dorky as is commonly believed (okay, yes I am, but give me this moment.) Walking around the school yesterday was kinda like my first day on the job, meeting kids and trying to get a feel for their world. Between you and me, it was terrifying. I think they could sense my weakness, which was likely why I felt that army of eyes on my back. They knew I didn’t belong and I knew it too.
As I got back in my car, glad to finally be in a familiar environment, I realized just how little time it took for my world to become something completely different than it was eight months ago. Perhaps we should each learn how to step into the worlds of people we care about, even when it requires us to step miles outside of our comfort zones. Yesterday I was every shade of anxious, but I was grateful to have the chance to set my own problems aside and jump into the lives of some kids who need someone cheering for them, perhaps for the first time.