By: Anne Marie Holloway
I give the five-minute “school bus arrival” warning to my middle two children. They both grab their coats and back packs and run to wrap their arms around me one last time before they head to school.
“Let there be Light! Let there beee Li-i-i-ght!” My nine year old playfully sings as he hugs me – he pauses a moment to plant a quick kiss on my cheek and smile at me with his big brown eyes.
I smile back at him with a quizzical look on my face and continue to hold him tight – albeit briefly.
My nine year old son does not stay in one place for very long. Most mornings, I must practically tackle him to insure I can get my hug. Today, however, he lingers long enough to let his tired Mom hug him for an extra special twenty seconds and then shrugs as he simultaneously breaks free from my hold and races out towards the bus stop.
Now it’s my youngest daughter’s turn. She crashes into my legs and as I bend down to hug her she snuggles into my shoulder and giggles. She, too, apparently has a theme song for the day and she sings the same words as her brother did moments ago, “Let there be Li-i-i-ght!”
I then have to walk her out the door attached to my leg — her hug not nearly over as I peel her little arms from around me.
She races down the driveway grinning as she looks back at me and waves. She then proceeds to throw her hands up in the air and sing those same words her big brother had just sung, “Let there be Li-i-i-ght!”
Joy bubbles up inside of me and makes me burst out in laughter as I wave to them while simultaneously shaking my head – realizing why they both were singing this new song…
Crazy, wonderful, amazing kids.
Let me rewind.
My husband and I run a youth group for kids in grades four through eight at our local church on Sunday nights. The majority of our members are in the 5th and 6th grade, and our mission for the youth group is to help our members as they travel along this unique and extremely complicated time in their lives, respectfully known as the Middle School years. When we first started the youth group three years ago, we began with eight kids. These days, our youth group serves approximately 40 kids in our community.
The youth group, called the “TYG!” (Trinitarian Church Youth Group), is a family affair. We often bring along all four of our kiddos for these meetings. Sometimes we are able to hire babysitters who help us out while we run our programs. Other times, the younger kids stay home with our parents.
The nights we play silly games at the youth group, our younger children get a chance to play along. They are loved and treated like mascots by the “tweens,” and for that we are always grateful.
Youth Group allows the kids a time to stop and just BE: be silly, be quiet, be loud, be clumsy, be athletic, be artistic, be serious…be themselves.
Anyways, at the end of our youth group meetings we typically try to close with a short story and a brief prayer. We always review the lessons taught and games played at our meetings. We try to close our meetings with a positive message for our youth to take out into their worlds when they leave. This past Sunday, I had no specific story chosen. We had a lot of closing announcements to share about upcoming events and I figured there was no time. Sometimes I even wondered if it was truly worthwhile to read a story at the closing of our meetings when our members typically become a little distracted, realizing it is nearing the time to go home- message lost. As we all gathered together to call it a day, one of the youth raised her hand and asked if she could share a story with us.
Now, you never know what you are in for when a middle schooler has something to share. But this time I did not hesitate and immediately opened the floor to this young member. She courageously took a deep breath and began to share a story about an argument over whether time on earth should be spent in all darkness or all light. The crux of the story was that the argument was between a ferociously enormous bear and a tiny chipmunk- and the plight of the chipmunk was not looking so great!
At first, I was unsure of where we were going with the story as our youth group member changed her voice with each character (which erupted some of her peers into giggles), repeating the phrase the chipmunk spoke, “Let there be Li-i-i-ght!!” Believe it or not, by the end of the story our young story teller had the whole group repeating the phrase, “Let there be Li-i-i-ght!”…
And as I looked out into the smiling group of kids, huddled together politely listening and enjoying the tale of how even one with the smallest voice can be heard and can make a difference, I smiled.
So as I stood in my driveway that next morning and waved to my kids as they rode away on the school bus, I watched them as they continued to be silly and mouth the words of the song they learned the night before at youth group. And with the school bus windows all fogged, my offspring proceeded to draw me smiley faces on the glass, and my heart filled with hope.
The world was going to be a better place – because of them, and because of a little song sung by a twelve-year-old girl disguised as a chipmunk, “Let there be Light! Let there be Li-i-i-ght!”
It was some pretty amazing stuff. Hope is an awesome thing.