If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?
At the FUUSB (First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington) last night we had a traditional lasagna dinner for those revelers who needed a warm place with good food to anchor their festivities. The sponsors of this year’s dinner were our senior youth group who were raising money for their service trip to an underserved part of one of the big eastern cities. I do not recall which city they are traveling to this year, but I watched in amazement the commitment of these young people to do the work required to turn our religious education room into a wonderful bistro.
Their energy and commitment was an object lesson in a well regulated life for older teens. They accepted the yoke of responsibility with a humor and grace too often lacking in the adult year. Similarly they accepted the compliments of the older folks with equanimity and humor. They were industrious without being frazzled, and engaged with the people who came to partake of our community created meal.
They are in a sense privileged kids. They are held in love and esteem by caring parents and community, and supported in their endeavors with no more than the daily trauma of growing through hormone driven growth and developing social consciences that will prick them in a few years. To be held and cherished by blessed community is a state much to be desired in one’s growing years.
Would I want to spend a year in the skin of one of these estimable youth? Not really. Having once lived through those youthful times, I have no desire to do so again. The rapid hormonal mood swings and tremendous self-doubt that haunted those times for me are, I am sure, still trials facing young people. But I would dearly love to have lived those years knowing what I know now, the incessant refrain of the old, because I know so much less than I did then, but what I know is more nuanced and rational than the vast encyclopedic knowledge I had as a child. And it would have been a blessing to live through those trials in a community such as ours.