I’m not good with change. Actually, I AM good with change, just not when it comes to people leaving. This is why the majority of people in my life have been there for a loooooong time. If we’re friends, you’re in. As long as you don’t do something that’s a friendship deal-breaker, you’re in for good. However, if you lie to me or betray my trust, we’re going to have a problem.
But that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about change.
So in my time as a “professional role model” to the kids in the youth group, I’ve come to know a few of them really well. We’ve spent hours in the van, evenings looking up at the stars in Juarez and Montana, and days on the work sites. We’ve worked, we’ve played, we’ve laughed until we cried and we’ve cried until we laughed.
My first trip with the kids was in 2003, when we went to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This was a huge thing for me –WAY outside my comfort zone. Why? I was scared to death that the kids wouldn’t like me. I knew most of them in passing, but except for my brother, I wasn’t pals with any of them. I remember the first person who made me feel like maybe I wasn't a huge dork – it was Mandy. She was so quiet, but would talk to me. By the end of the trip, I felt that even if I hadn’t totally infiltrated the group, at least they didn’t think I was totally lame.
The next summer was our first trip to Juarez. By that time, I knew everyone a little better and even though I’m probably not supposed to, I developed favorites. Mandy was one – really, how could I NOT love her? She’s super smart and in the past couple of years, I’ve watched her struggle and I’ve watched her succeed. It’s been so great. Because she deserves the best things. Mollie was one – she’s the one who is friends with EVERYONE, even the inevitable weird kid who annoys the crap out of everyone else the entire trip. But Mollie can find the good in them and they know that her kindness is genuine. She’s so cool – she makes you laugh, but she’s also a deep kind of smart that makes you think. She’s got an older soul than most people her age. And Dane is one – he’s like my younger brother. I can’t say “little”, because he’s almost a foot taller than me. Anyway. He’s like a really large, really hyper puppy. He’s all over the place, and by the end of a trip, he’ll have had a long conversation with someone he didn’t really know before and he’ll like them. Dane wears his heart on his sleeve, and he sees the good in people first -- he only ever sees the bad if they end up hurting him. I’ve watched him grow from an obnoxious 14 year old that I couldn’t stand into an amazing 18 year old who is like my family.
Last summer was my last trip with Mandy and Mollie, because they graduated from high school. I remember bawling the night before we got home, because even though we knew we’d see each other plenty, this was our last trip together. It was sad, because the trips are such experiences. We spend 24/7 with our group and we learn and do so much… I can’t even begin to explain it. Anyway, it’s true. I do see them – I see Mandy at church every week and I see Mollie for dinner, or I see both of them when they come to hang out at my house. So the change there hasn’t been that hard, because they’re still around. This summer’s trip will be so different without them, though.
This summer is my last trip with Dane. And as much as I know that I’ll see him and talk to him after he goes to college, it's still sad. And I worry about him. I worry that he’ll lose that quality of seeing the good in people after he gets hurt one too many times. I worry that he’ll make stupid decisions (as he is apt to do) that will get him hurt or worse. I worry that in his effort to be a friend to everyone, he’ll lose himself in trying to please them. He has such a good heart – he’s kind and loving and loyal and that’s not something you always see in teenage boys. It may be there, but it’s hidden. Not this boy – he is all those things and lays it all on the table.
The reason I worry about him the most is because I know he’s scared of change as well. Last summer at camp, we were doing this kind of quiet reflective activity, and Dane came over and sat next to me, buried his face in my neck and cried and cried. He was already thinking about this summer – and how after this summer, everything changes. He’s scared to lose the people in his life that love him and who he loves. The world could end, the sky could fall, but none of that would be half as devastating to him as losing someone he loves. That's one reason I understand him so well -- I fear that too.
So yeah. Change. At this time last year, the tears would sneak up on me whenever I’d think about my two girls graduating and moving on. And this year, the tears start when I think about my boy graduating. I’m so happy for them, because I know that they have so much cool stuff to do and see and it’s exciting to move forward. But as cliché as it may sound, I’m sad because I lose a piece of me when they leave.