Young people often get a bad rap. They’re thrown into a lot with the “bad apples” whose misdeeds often leave the perception that most of today’s youth are driven by selfishness, laziness and a penchant for the wilder side of life.
But if you glanced around just about anywhere in late June and early July, whatever negative perceptions one might have of youth should have vanished, replaced by a new-found respect for our younger citizens, a couple hundred who rolled up shirtsleeves and opened up Bibles to serve their community during Illuminate 2014.
A now annual event that we have watched grow — and covered — year after year since its inception, this year’s Illuminate brought together dozens upon dozens of young people to do everything from build wheelchair ramps and clean up the yards of those less fortunate to making dresses to Haitian ladies and collecting food for the hungry right here at home.
It was a sight to behold, this reaching out to help that saw young hands outstretched to older ones, and youth of different races and backgrounds working side-by-side to assist others by way of service or, in many cases, by way of witness.
During the event, which culminated every evening with worship and fellowship, 12 wheelchair ramps were built, 10 yards were cleaned, 155 dresses were sewn and thousands of food items collected to feed local families. In all, organizers said, more than 100 families would benefit from the food drive. Monetary donations alone, amounting to $1,200, will bring in 20,000 pounds of food for the less fortunate. Paper products collected were given to Sampson’s domestic violence shelter, U Care.
But it didn’t stop there. Young people also visited the local hospital and area nursing homes, sharing their testimony and their love with those housed in the facilities.
It was, without question an event that allowed youth to shine through service, a strong reminder that we should never lump young people together into one preconceived notion. Doing that provides an unfortunate and most often wrong view of youth in our community. It is undeserved and shows the close-mindedness that prejudice of any kind often bolsters.
The nearly 200 youth who made up this year’s Illuminate did great things for our community. Their actions speak volumes and teach us untold lessons about everything from being faithful to showing that faith through our deeds. Illuminate returns, or should return, our focus to the good in our teenagers who, given the opportunity, can make a difference in their communities even at a young age.
In fact, we could all learn a thing or too from those youth. For one, we could learn that sharing our faith should be both our responsibility and our privilege; for another, that service should extend beyond one’s home and family to those less fortunate among us, many who may be far different from us or those with whom we associate.
Many of the young people in our community have set a positive example for the rest of us to follow through Illuminate. The event has grown along with the service. It is our hope that the lessons will grow right along with it.