Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Power in the Unremarkable

They stood in a circle around the high school’s flagpole. Six of them, or maybe eight.

Overstuffed backpacks and accompanying lunch bags containing the items they’d need for the day littered the ground near their feet.

Buses and cars circled the asphalt loop around them, depositing classmates and fellow students who chatted noisily as they entered the school’s foyer.

The group standing around the flagpole was unmoved despite the commotion all around them.

They stood with heads bowed and hands clasped, observing a moment of prayerful quietude before the start of a potentially challenging day. As least I believe the gathering was an informal prayer group. I’ve seen enough of them in my lifetime to recognize the signs.

My daughter and her friend recognized some of the students as we passed the group. They shared classes with a few and knew others through friends.

Neither girl thought found the gathering to be “strange,” “weird” or any of the other terms routinely used by teenagers to denigrate those different from themselves.

They both attend our church regularly and belong to its youth group. Their affiliation is important to their lives and helps to shape the wonderful, caring people they are becoming.

For me, however, the gathering was both unremarkable and sublime – a strange paradox in itself.

It was unremarkable in that there was no fanfare, no “in your face” religious zealotry, no conscious effort by the students to call attention to themselves in any other way but that which comes naturally from a group of students in prayerful reflection in front of a high school on a busy Wednesday morning.

In contrast, it was sublime to see the students expressing their faith openly – in the highly visible presence of others – while seemingly unaware of their surroundings.

While I am a Christian and have worshipped in a church of some kind my whole life, this post is not intended to convert others to my belief system. It is part of who I am and I respect that others may believe differently.

I do applaud the courage and conviction of the assembled students I saw this morning, however.

High school can be a hostile and even dangerous place for teenagers to dwell these days, so much more than when I walked similar halls nearly 30 years ago.

Bullying existed but the risks and consequences were far less severe and life-altering than they are now.

And there was no cyberbullying back then, a tragic phenomenon now deeply ingrained in our culture and society.

The Internet – and its prevalence of social networking sites – did not exist. Neither did e-mail or smart phones…vehicles that can transmit hate-filled messages and destructive photos in fractions of seconds.

If teens were bullied at school, they could at least escape the harassment and threatening behavior when the bell sounded at the end of the school day. There is no escape now, by comparison.

Bullying can occur 24/7/365, be expanded to a global audience and exist forever on social media sites, chat rooms and e-bulletin boards.

What I witnessed this morning, however, offers hope in the existence of positive forces to combat the tremendous challenges for today’s teens and provide them with the support that is greatly needed at times.

This circle of students – without ever realizing their impact – showed me a strength that a belief system readily provides.

Perhaps their peers, who also witnessed their actions, will be inspired too.

Maybe it will encourage them to be kinder to others.

To act with civility and respect toward those unlike themselves.

To be mindful of the challenges faced by others – family dysfunction, physical or emotional abuse, living in a home barely habitable or in which money, fuel or food is scarce – and show compassion instead of judgment or ridicule.

There is power in a small group of students in quiet, prayerful reflection. They may not realize it. I, on the other hand, certainly did.

1 comment:

  1. The parents of these kids should be very proud.