You can’t know Lydia Lee very long without hearing her bring up her HYPE kids. Or, as I commonly refer to them to those who don’t know what “HYPE” is, “my leadership kids” – that band of teenagers who knows how to be crazy, who knows how to love, who knows how to lead – and who knows how to turn a girl’s life upside down.
“Wow, you’re really passionate about them,” some people might observe. And think in their heads, “and just a little bit crazy!”
Yep. I’m both.
But the thing is – that passion [and craziness!] was so not my idea. I can say that because it was literally dropped in my lap when I was least expecting it. They just needed someone to fill the position of HYPE Adviser, and the CYT Artistic Director at the time turned and looked at me and said, “What about Lydia?” To be sure, I loved the HYPE kids, but at the time, I felt like the last person on earth to be an expert on leadership. I was way too young, for one thing! [Lesson #1 in HYPE: our core verse 1 Timothy 4:12 which says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young …”]
But I felt God stirring in my heart an excitement for it, and because someone believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me kick it all off way back when, I started on a journey that would change my life forever.
And it’s crazy to me that I can look back and realize that currently I don’t have any HYPE members who were there from the start … I’ve already been with it for one generation’s length [which in high school terms is only four years, but still!]. If I go to say, “Remember when …” they don’t, because they weren’t there for that. The stories get repeated, though, for posterity’s sake, and I smile to think of them, both old and new …
Like … “Remember that time when Matthew Comi made me inhale a mixture of vinegar, peanut butter, and olives at one in the morning?”
Or … “Remember when Josh made us shake our puppy chow in paper bags whenever we wanted to talk?” and “when Lydia made a giant board game of the agenda and then Wyatt got left behind?”[okay, so maybe not all of our ideas have been good ones!]
Then there was that time when we forced them to play Four on a Couch at three in the morning … haha, it seems like all the best stories happen after midnight!
Remember when we tried to Skype Karly into a meeting … when Lydia was on her phone four times in one meeting … when Austin made a giant needle for a skit out of a rolled-up poster board … when genius sledding ideas turned out to be catastrophic … when the lights went out up at the cabin and the chainsaw went missing … when Ben sang a song in his defense when playing Mafia … when Nick’s goal to learn how to be complimentary turned into “Life-Long Hit-Ons on Lydia” … when Lydia tried to match the boys’ deodorant to their owners … when Katie laughed so hard she fell out of her chair (well that happened rather frequently!) … when Madison was a victim in a rather intense game of Spoons … when Brian made “attractiveness” become legendary … when they cleaned Jake’s grandma’s house … when the boys sang to the girls before we went to bed … when Quote Books became invented (all because of a HYPE Conference trip down to San Diego) …
The memories continue on and on, but I especially love the ones that are most beautiful to me: of HYPE gathered around worshiping together … of hands held tightly in prayer … of a feet-washing ceremony in a cabin on the side of the mountain … of seniors passing a torch around the circle, leaving a legacy to be carried on … of little buddies’ faces lighting up at the sight of their older HYPE buddy … of students standing up and eloquently speaking in front of crowds … of them banding together to raise over $2000 in two weeks for Invisible Children … of sacrifice and late nights and learning how to communicate and love one another … of kids growing in responsibility and accomplishing more than I ever thought was possible.
Because in between all the silly memories of Ninja, Telephone Pictionary, jumping in lakes, and licking elbows, somewhere these kids get it. They internalize leadership and excellence and it’s not just a one- or two- or three-year commitment to an organized group called by four letters. It’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle that matters and makes a difference and continues for all their days.
How do I know this? Because one of them chooses to go off to Uganda and love on little ones in an orphanage. And another one takes off on a nine-month missions trip and writes beautiful things like this. And another starts a non-profit called Kids Against Cancer. All of them – no matter where they go after they graduate are filled with the love of Christ and the passion He’s placed in their hearts to make a difference in the world … by being a writer or a teacher or any number of careers, all of which still shout – “I will pursue excellence with my life.”
CYT, I thank you for the birth of this idea – this beautiful thing that we call a family within a family – kids influencing kids and being inspired to make a difference all around them. I wake up every day incredibly humbled and overjoyed that I get the opportunity to work with them.
And I never feel the weight of importance so much as when that one HYPE member looks me straight in the eyes and says, “HYPE literally saved my life.”
That is why I do what I do. Nothing else makes me feel so fulfilled in life or makes me come more alive. No, I don’t get paid for it. I don’t make a living off of helping make HYPE agendas or organizing events or going on retreats with these kiddos. But the incredible joy that they supply me with makes every minute worth it.
May God’s great name be glorified for what He is doing in these young people. He is starting a movement that cannot be stopped using kids who are crazy passionate about pursuing Him. And I can’t believe that He’s placed me smack-dab in the middle of it all.