Young people have 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 last week, 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 2013.
A now annual event that we have watched grow — and covered — year after year since its inception, this year’s Illuminate brought together some 190 young people to do everything from build wheelchair ramps and cleanup the yards of those less fortunate to making dresses for little girls in Haiti 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, witness.
During the week-long event, which culminated every evening with worship and fellowship, 17 wheelchair ramps were built, eight yards were cleaned, 150 dresses were sewn and thousands of food items collected to feed local families. But it didn’t stop there, young people set up Vacation Bible School sites and evangelism crews visited Wal-Mart, Sampson Regional Medical Center and Lowe’s, sharing their testimony with all who would listen.
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. But it doesn’t stop there. Illuminate should return 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 can 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.