I have spent a lot of time recently studying and touting this thing called “safe spaces” for our youth. Basically the idea of creating a safe space within these walls of UPC that allow our youth to be who they are and never judged. It is so important to me that we support them through everything they go through, that UPC is their soft place to land. After the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I really questioned the reality of having truly safe spaces. The club those individuals were in was a safe space for them. The place where they could be themselves was ripped away along with innocent lives. It caused me to take a step back from this idea. Even a church Bible study can become an unsafe space when a murderer walks in, spends time in prayer with you and turns that place of calm, prayer and praise into a nightmare. I was really discouraged going into the mission trip this past week knowing that everything I had been telling them about safe spaces may not really be true.
It is heartbreaking to know that we cannot make any place truly safe for our kids. In all of my anxiety last week, one of our youth once again taught me something. Some of the kids were up late one night after everyone had gone to bed talking about what we had discussed in our nightly devotions. Of anything they could talk about, they chose to talk about safe spaces. They came to the conclusion that they do not have any safe spaces. This makes my heart sink. Something I was so passionate about is not a reality to them. But one youth took it a step further and said that she did not have a safe space, but she had safe people. People she could be her true self around. People she knew she could trust. Some of those people were on that trip.
As I hear these stories, I am still amazed at how much our youth can teach us. I am also so proud of them for being safe people for one another. They share things with one another that only the best of friends would. I worry every year about the dreaded “mission trip high” where everyone bonds so closely together on the trip but it just does not last beyond that week. Everyone goes back to their lives and friends at home and the magic of the week isn’t as bright as it was. I don’t worry about that with these kids. After last year, they stuck together as friends, socializing outside of youth group and proving over and over that they are safe people for one another.
I know I can learn a lot from them about what it means to be a good friend and someone others can trust. We all can relate to how important it is to have safe people and how being one can change a life. I encourage you to learn from these youth as well and create relationships with others that give them some peace and hope as well as a soft place for you to land.