It happened several years ago in LaVerne, California. Several of the Spirit Journey Youth had agreed to help with the Vacation Bible School in a well-to-do neighborhood. On our drive to Saint John’s Church, the youth proclaimed that they would only work with the older kids; they didn’t want to baby sit. We arrive and the Vicar explains the system. “You have to put your ego aside. You will be asked to sing silly songs and help those younger than you to do things that are not cool. Are you willing to do this?” They all said yes and then she made the assignments. She pointed to the most ‘cool’ leader and asked him to be a “butterfly,” the youngest group. I held my breath knowing that he would never do this. Instead, he says “Okay, Go Butterflies.” We all laughed and setting aside our ego became our watchword for the week.
Since then we have taught the younger ones this precious life skill. Once when we collected twelve boxes of coats and blankets for the homeless in Winslow, we had to re-teach ourselves before we could walk the streets. One of the young adults gave the context: “Sometimes we are asked to do something that makes us uncomfortable like talking with the homeless people. I know for me, I think of when my family was homeless and I hated people giving me things like a charity case. So we are going to be different. We are going to put aside our egos and not act like we are superior because we have a house. We are going to be their sons and daughters and treat them with great respect.”
One of the youth says “But what if someone from our school sees us?”
Others laugh nervously.
The young adult says, “That’s what putting our ego aside means. We do whatever it takes to make the homeless comfortable. That means we can’t think about being cool.”
After a long chat, everyone decides to risk it.
It was one of the best evenings we have spent. We gave coats, sweaters, beanies, socks and gloves. We laughed and talked with the street people and we found connections, among the homeless, with each other, and with God.
One of the youth sums it up: “That was so much fun. Can we do this again?”