I recently spent a week with 27 teenagers (and 4 other adults) on a mission trip to Denver--by choice, even. It was a great experience. There were times when my patience was tested, as you might expect under the circumstances, but it was good. In addition to getting to know the kids a little better, I got to meet my friend Nora in person for the first time. (Maybe I'll explain that in a separate blog entry.) She joined us for dinner one evening at the church where we stayed.
On this trip we volunteered at a center for abused and neglected children, we cleaned and boxed food at a food pantry, we cleaned at Ronald McDonald House, we weeded at an urban garden, and we sorted books for a thrift store. In the evenings, the kids prepared meals for the group and we participated in worship together. Friday was our fun day and we got to go whitewater rafting, which was fabulous even though the water was 38 degrees.
I learned some things about the kids throughout the week. One: During worship I was struck by how insightful and thoughtful the kids were about what they experienced during the week. Two: When there was a job to do, they did it. I was particularly impressed by how they labored in the hot sun at the urban garden. Three: They're caring and compassionate people. Some of them may display a layer of orneriness on top, but the care and compassion is just under the surface. Four: They're funny. I love a good sense of humor.
I also learned a few things about myself. One: I was not made to sleep on sofas or drive up a mountain road. Two: I am perceived as "cool" by at least a smattering of the teen population. (By "smattering" I mean one or two teens.) Three: I'm 40. (OK, I already knew that, but this trip was the first time that 40 felt "old" to me.) Four: I have a lot to learn and there is a lot to be learned from the younger generation.
It was a long week and at the end of it all I felt like I needed a vacation after my vacation, but I'd do it again if the circumstances allowed.