In July, I traveled with a group of Shadow Rock UCC youth to Orlando, FL for National Youth Event. Our little gang of 10 Shadow Rockers was joined by 1 young person from First UCC Phoenix. While there we met with and socialized with many kids from all over the country, including Ktizo UCC in Phoenix and Good Shepherd UCC in Albuquerque. It was a great event overall, with dynamic speakers and workshops.
But as our time together went on, I noticed a couple of problems. Nothing major, nothing catastrophic… just things about the event and our group’s dynamic that I would want to work on or address for our next big travel event. Our last day included some downtime at the host resort, after Closing Worship and before NYE buses would take us to the Orlando airport for the trip home. Our Shadow Rock youth director and my traveling companion Brenda Hensley planned to use some of this downtime for some reflection and connection with the group.
I put my thoughts together about the problems and planned to mention them during our meeting time.
- Regarding our group dynamic, I recognized some divisions between the older more seasoned youth (some of which were fresh from a camp staff experience) and our younger and often quieter kids. This wasn’t a terrible thing at all, but I think with more guidance and encouragement from the chaperones, our older participants would have done more to include those younger.
- The event was July 27 to 30, and the whole world was enchanted by Pokémon Go… including most of our group. Again, it wasn’t anything insurmountable, but I wished we would have helped the group set some boundaries around Pokémon and screen time before we touched down in Florida.
- About the event overall, this National Youth Event was the first to be held at a resort and to include a theme park day. It was also my first time attending an NYE, but I wished the venue had been less distracting and less overwhelming. Even for the adult participants, it was occasionally difficult to stay present to worship, workshops, and sharing ideas with the next day at Magic Kingdom looming in our imaginations.
So we sat down on the floor in the convention center lobby of Coronado Springs Resort – a little bit tired, a little bit homesick, a little bit thoughtful. I was ready to share my observations and perhaps, in my daydreams, a little wisdom. But luckily, thankfully (!!!), I listened to these teens first.
AND THEY MENTIONED, THEMSELVES, EVERY SINGLE THING I SAID ABOVE… 1, 2 AND 3. I didn’t need to say a word, so I didn’t.
So smart. So compassionate. So aware.
It was a gift to be with them. The kids are all right.