Sometimes when you work with youth you don’t always get to see the fruits of your labor. Often it is not until adulthood when they are struggling with tough decisions that the foundation work that is done during their formative youth years shows up. You don’t always get thanked by youth for everything you do. I look back at everything that has been done for me, and honestly, there are a lot of people that I never thanked for the roles they have played in my life.
Notice I said always above. There are these moments, when a youth does something so touching, it melts your heart. These moments keep you going. It is so easy to get caught up in what you are doing that you don’t realize you are in one of those moments until it slaps you in the face.
A couple of years ago, during VBS (Vacation Bible School), I was doing in the kitchen helping to pop popcorn using a popcorn machine. We were struggling with it. We couldn’t get a lot of kernels to pop, there was salt and oil everywhere, and the machine put off a tremendous amount of heat. We continued to slave away knowing that we had to have popcorn for every group that was coming to snack that day. In the middle of our popcorn misadventures a youth named Josh popped his head through the window in the kitchen. He called my name and asked me to come over.
I came over the window and saw that his group was coming in for snack. I asked him what was up. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to me. “I wanted to show this to you,” he said. I opened the paper took a quick glance at it, saw that he made an A plus on it and told him that was awesome. I told him I would read it in a few because I was really busy. He said, “cool.”
I little while went by and I forgot about the paper in my pocket. When we finally reached the end of popcorn chaos, I happened to reach my hand in my pocket and found the paper. I told myself I should really skim over it so I could say something to Josh about it when I saw him. I opened the paper and at the very top under a red felt tip A plus were the words, Dear Eric. I was taken back. I went on to read the paper. It was a letter that he wrote to me. When I asked him about it later, he said that he had to choice someone important to him and write a thank you letter.
I read every word of this letter. It thanked me for always including him and being there for him. It thanked me for coaching his basketball team. It thanked me for providing all the trips and programs and that he loved all of them. It said that he was excited about the upcoming years and couldn’t wait to find out what all we had in store for him and the rest of the youth. He ended by thanking me with his spiritual journey and that he loved and respected me.
My heart melted like hot butter over popcorn. I had to wipe the tears from my eyes by the end of the letter. It was one of those moments. These are the moments that freeze in time when you know that you are making a difference.
Thank you so much Josh for providing me with a life long memory that I will cherish always.