Steven Charleston “Open the windows of grace. Don’t wait, shut up in a closed room, hunched over the same old plans, breathing in the airless atmosphere of failure, praying for rescue, expecting only more of the same. Open the windows of grace. Let a fresh wind flood your room, let it scatter the paper plans on the floor, stir up the dust, wave the curtains like flags of victory, give you a new air to breathe. Open the windows of your soul to receive the grace of God, blessings like breeze, life new like morning air.”
“I don’t want to graduate,” confides a young man in his last year of high school. “There will be a big party with all my relatives and people will be happy that I walked but that’s the end. There is nothing after that.”
We were sitting in a café sipping ice tea and sodas with a mixed age group. “How do the rest of you think about this?” I ask.
“I used to think the same,” says a young adult. “Most of my friends do nothing after high school. Sure they try to get jobs but being in school gave them something to look forward to every day even though they hated school. And to get into college takes effort and money. Even to move away takes some effort on your own part. No one is doing it for you.”
Another youth spoke up, “I’ve spent my time running away and taking care of myself. It was hard not being in school and having someone else tell you what to do. But I had some experience of making decisions on my own. The thing that turned me around was making my own goal of what I wanted to do. I had a vague picture of wanting something else but not until I decided to get my GED did I actually do something. Then I could have other goals and the picture of what I want got more clear. But I had to take the first step on my own. I won’t lie. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done.”
The first youth says, “I don’t think I can do that. It all seems a dead end. I don’t have anything in me that even wants to make a goal. I don’t want anything that bad.”
We talk some more and finally one of the young people says, “I used to be like that. My head was totally into this town. I would see losers on the street and think how I would be like that in 20 years. It was not until we started visiting different cities and seeing how many different things there are out there that I can do. I think that part of me just didn’t believe that new things were out there and part of me didn’t think I could do anything different.”
“I think I’m finally getting that, says a 14 year old. Every time we go somewhere and people there ask me what I am going to do, I get to believing that maybe I can do something.”
We continue talking and I reflect on the many elements that enable these youth to believe that their future is open-ended. Visiting larger cities and participating in diverse events open eyes to possibilities. Reflecting on what they are going to do next is a big part. But I think the most powerful is meeting people who assume that these young Natives can dream full-size and accomplish greatly.
Learning that they have a do-able future releases them. As Bishop Steven says “ Don’t wait, shut up in a closed room, hunched over the same old plans, breathing in the airless atmosphere of failure, praying for rescue, expecting only more of the same…. Let a fresh wind flood your room, let it scatter the paper plans on the floor, stir up the dust, wave the curtains like flags of victory, give you a new air to breathe.”
May we all learn to live in an open future through the windows of grace.