The world seems like a big, giant mess right now. Every day, I cringe as I get news updates to my phone, wondering what heartbreaking thing it’s going to tell me next. How is it even possible that we can have so many tragedies, one right after the other, without any seeming relief from them?
And more so, what can we even do about them all? I feel helpless in the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, and terrorism all around the world, and I want to do so much more than I am right now.
But as I thought about all of this and my heart wept and my prayers whispered in fervency, God brought a small, quiet revelation to my heart. There is something I can do – and am doing right now – that makes all the difference in the world. It might not stop the sin and natural disasters from happening, but it’s providing love and compassion in the midst of them.
And it’s called investing in the next generation of leaders.
I believe in student leadership passionately, which is why I do this little side job called being the national HYPE Director for CYT. HYPE [High School Youth Pursuing Excellence] isn’t just a club or a fun sub-group of CYT. It trains and mentors the leaders of tomorrow by giving them the tools and practice today.
And I know this first-hand. For evidence, I give you a small trip down memory lane:
One snowy winter when I was the adviser for Spokane’s HYPE students, some of our members came to a meeting, excited about raising money for a campaign for Invisible Children. They felt strongly about helping to end the injustices of the LRA in Africa, and they wanted our leadership group to raise money for it. Their enthusiasm was catching, and the whole group eagerly began planning how we were going to raise thousands of dollars in just a couple weeks.
And into action they quickly went – and before we knew it, we were hosting a couple different fundraisers, one of which was a silent auction with items donated from various CYT families. We brought snacks, we decorated tables, we set up the beautiful items – and we waited.
And nobody came.
Well – that’s not exactly true. We had about ten people come, all of whom were related to the HYPE students putting on the fundraiser – and who lovingly gave money to the cause.
We did end up raising around $2000 in those two weeks, which was pretty astounding, seeing as how we’d never done anything like that before. But the students were pretty discouraged over the lack of attendance and buy-in from other people [and let’s face it, they still had much to learn about PR!].
I look back on that memory, and I don’t laugh over its seeming pathetic-ness – and I don’t cringe at what felt like an embarrassing failure to the students.
I look back – and then I look to the present – and I see what it taught those students. It taught them to actually do something about their convictions – not just talk about them and complain about injustice and cruelty in the world. Maybe their plans weren’t as successful as they liked. But that did not negate the success of making convictions into a reality, nor did it stop it from creating lasting change within them.
And how do I know it was a lasting change? Because six years later, those graduated high school students are out there, continuing to put their convictions into action. They’re taking care of orphans in Uganda. They’re supporting at-risk kids in low-income schools. They’re taking their skills to other countries. They’re being teachers in this country. They’re spreading awareness of causes that are important and about which they’re passionate. They’re making their corner of the world better, piece by piece.
They are doing exactly what Jason & Danica Russell [who helped found Invisible Children] wrote about in their book, A Little Radical –
“A is for Action.
It all starts with you.
Talk won’t do a thang. Without follow-through.
So get off your buns!
Don’t be a no-show.
Lead by example! Get up and go!
Nothing will change if you just stand still.
Come alive! Take action!
You can. If you will.”
There is hope for this millennial generation. And it starts with training our teenagers to care, to put into action their convictions & beliefs, and to lead with confidence and grace. Because when our teens learn this, they become adults who can use their convictions and put change into action.
This is why I believe in HYPE so much. Hundreds of teenagers across the country are being shaped by this program to lead and to serve today – and in turn, they will continue to make the world a better place tomorrow.
And this is my commitment to making a tiny mark on the world – for if I can, in some small way, help them to become stronger leaders, then they will go out and do far more than I could ever do on my own. What an amazing privilege it is to be a part of such a group. I pray that God continues to use it in vastly great ways for His Kingdom purposes.