December 30, 2012

Hug Your Young Adult

Today was to have been a Writing Advice column, but it won't be because there are things more important than writing.

I know. I can't believe I said that, but even though this won't be about writing, it will come BACK to writing, strangely enough. But it won't be words of wisdom or anything profound or helpful to your writing career. It will be about history. It will be about family. It will be about grief.

Some thirty years ago, as a stopping place on the journey, I worked for a summer at Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp near Amery, Wisconsin. It was the...fourth or fifth camp I'd worked at, but it was the ONLY camp whose effects have resonated down through the years to this morning, thirty years later. I made some friends that summer that I still see: Lynn, Jon, Loren, Char, Joel...and I see their kids and occasionally their grandkids.

The reason I was there was to play with young people. I was a camp counselor; what ELSE do they do but play tag, go swimming, sing songs around a campfire, sing rowdy praises to God, and write silly ditties like The Smell Song? Since graduating from high school in 1975, I'd found myself entangled in something called "youth ministry". So I kept on. Pursuing that entanglement led me to playground supervisor for the local Park and Recreation program, thence into Bible camp counselor and director, onward to science teacher until I washed up on the shore of my current job, high school counselor.

If you wanted to sound grandiose about it, you might say that my life has been dedicated to the lives of young adults. Even my writing is strongly slanted to YA.


*deep breath* Because the lives of young adults are balanced on the thin edge of greatness and disaster. I have seen young adults crash and burn. I have known young adults who were gunned down in gang violence. I have seen young adults fall headfirst and knowingly into addictions varied and colorful. I have also seen young adults act selflessly to help others. I have seen young adults embrace the homeless and needy and through their actions, make a profound difference in the lives of the people of this planet we live on. I have seen young adults move into careers both profound and mundane.

Young adulthood is where the action is. Young adulthood is where the greatest potential for greatness and disaster is.

And I stand there every day.

That is why the death of a young adult; struck down by influenza that might be a relative of the flu that murdered roughly two percent OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION from 1918 to 1920, most of them young adults; has hit me so hard. I met his mother at Bible Camp, where we shared a love of "hair pie" and worked together to have a profound impact on the lives of YOUNGER young adults and children. It is she who lost her son yesterday.

That's why I grieve today. It's for young people like him that I write. That's why you need to go out and hug the young adults in your own life. Because you never know when you will be denied that opportunity; and young adults NEED to be hugged sometimes.


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