Several years ago, our youngest son asked if we could give a friend of his, who I’ll name “Joe,” a ride to school on the first day of senior high. I happily agreed to share the excitement of this new adventure and off we headed to pick up Joe. As Joe jumped into the van you could sense his excitement.
“Excited for your freshman year?” I asked.
“ I’m so excited to get a new start”, Joe replied.
“New start?” I replied.
“Yes, Mama Evans, I get to have new teachers and I’m hoping they will see me as a new kid and not know me as the little brother of_______.”
“You see,” he continued on to explain, “my sisters and brothers have not always made good choices and I’m trying really hard to learn from them. I want to get good grades and be something when I grow up. I just want a chance for them to see I’m a good kid.”
My heart sank. How could a young teen feel so diminished and so excited to be seen as the gift they are in the world all at once? How could the words and actions of others have created this sense of judgment in a young person? How could I help support and build up this young person?
As another school year begins and we prepare to welcome children, youth and families to Faith Formation, I am reminded of the lesson Joe taught me many years ago. Everyone wants to be good, to be something, to have others believe in them and be respected.
I was blessed over the years to witness this young person develop into a respectful young man. He had the resilience to strive to be better than others thought of him.
Another school year has begun as fall approaches and we return to a rhythm of learning. We are all on a life long journey of faith. We all have the opportunities to welcome and encourage one another in many ways to support the “Joe’s” of our community. Many of us may have some “Joe” in us.
St. Francis de Sales writes, “Be who you are, and be that well.” We are called to reflect Christ’s light into the world and from the very core of our breath.
As we begin this fall, we have many opportunities to share Christ’s light in the world. Many of us are preparing to begin another year of Faith Formation classes. Many of us will have the opportunity to meet and greet new children and youth. Some of us are the “Joe’s” in the world looking for a new beginning and welcome. We will have the opportunity to share in another person’s life and journey. We have the opportunity to be the “Body of Christ” for the world.
As your fall progresses, consider how you may greet and welcome the “Joes” of the community to your parish and faith community. We are all invited and called to shine the light of Christ into the world…how will you shine?