HSMT, 2008, Arizona Trip, Tuesday Evening
I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when I was going through HSMT it seemed as though one did not choose to serve in the teens class, rather, you were chosen. Of course, you elected what grade you wanted to teach, but still, ultimately the leaders had the final say. You were hand picked for teens at the time because you were deemed fit. In my eyes, those chosen to serve in the teens class met this criteria:
a.) Spiritually mature (for a high schooler) and had a good head on their shoulders
b.) Is a leader type, commanded presence and had charisma
c.) Meshes well with teenagers, was likely the cool kid at their high school
d.) More than one of the above
Whether or not this was actually true, one thing was certain. If you served in teens, you had confidence. You had a sense of arrogance that you were essentially given the hardest people to deal with. Sure, every younger grade had its own obstacles and merits for being equally tough (rowdy kids, kids that ran away, kids that never paid attention, etc.). But teaching teenagers meant dealing with extra sass, possible weapons, literal trashing of the shade house, and fake gang affiliations. Because let’s be honest, if you were a 6’5’’ tall 20 year old, you wouldn’t listen a scrawny 17 year old trying to teach you a Bible story.
Despite it all though, two days into VBS, everything was okay. The team and I were having a good time. There was great discussion when we split them up into small groups. The teens loved the craft we prepared for them. They actually responded to us in the journals. They respected us for the most part and though there was some rough housing, it was manageable. And so our ego grew.
As the team and I prepared for our Wednesday activity, we couldn’t help but express our joy of our current progress. We were filling water balloons just outside the shade house. In our glee, a couple of us decided to set a prank trap. They pretended to take pictures of other HSMT members for class, but instead a picture being taken on 3, it was a couple of water balloons to the face. One victim laughed it off and was a good sport about. Another, just kind of walked it off without any words. The important thing to note was it was evening time. As in, the sun had set and it wasn’t super hot anymore. So if you were wet, you were wet for a looong time. And so, the last of our victims snapped.
Yup, that’s me, just filling up the balloons…
Most of you know the rest of this story. Jon Lew and Elaine Cheng got together and made us apologize in front of everyone. Just like they had us do for the whole year whenever someone was absent or tardy. BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT HAPPENED.
After the last victim (let’s call her Cambria) had stormed off, I went to talk to her. Cambria was so flustered, she couldn’t even talk to me. And so I walked over to my teammates and said “Hey guys, that was really sucky of us… and not just because of Cambria..” Notice, I said “us”. Despite it being really only one person’s idea and two others pulling it off. Me? I was just filling the water balloons, quietly. “I think we should apologize to everyone.” For it was evident that the other groups’ planning was slowed down due to the frustrated members we had pranked. As my eyes passed by each of theirs, they knew I was for real. From there on, the guilt sunk in. We were a group, all partners in crime. And as a group, we had hindered the entire team with our shenanigans. We apologized the next morning during the morning briefing. And because of our apology, all plans of vengeance subsided. Everyone just kind of assumed Jon made us do it. Actually, I don’t think Jon or Elaine knew what we did. No leader confronted us about the events that occurred that evening.
I tell this story not to point glory to myself. Rather, to point out that there is hope in our generation deemed as lost and/or confused. Even if just a smidgen of hope. It’s unfortunate that none of us acted right away, and that it took a couple instances before we realized we were in the wrong. I’m sure more than one of us were thinking it, I just happened to pull the trigger first. I tell this story to encourage you, the reader, to do some standing up for what’s right. Rather than just playing along, which I was almost guilty of. Me, an 18 year old boy at the time could stand up and own up to his mistakes and for once, act like a man. Also a group of high schoolers could humbly apologize without prompt from an adult. I was pretty shy back then, so this may have been the first time I really spoke up for anything.
Jon Lew made us apologize to everyone after we pulled a prank on them. False, I made us apologize to everyone.
I certainly miss those AZ sunsets…