I was recently in a store, and the employees wore “Ask Me Why?” as part of their name tags. So I asked a cashier, and received a beautiful, well-rehearsed response. It’s a simple but provocative question, and worth thinking about from time to time—why do we do what we do?
Why St. Michael?’
There is tremendous pessimism and cynicism about teenagers today. They are “rude”. They are “self-centered.” They are incapable of living a moral life, so we must teach them “safe-sex.” “Enjoy this time with your toddlers”, young parents are told in dark and foreboding tones, “Because one day they will become teenagers.”
At St. Michael, we do not share this cynicism. In fact, we flatly reject it. We enjoy working with teenagers and believe they’re capable of doing great things with their lives. I believe there is a profound optimism in our students at St. Michael. We believe if they are immersed in a culture of high expectations, if they are supported by adults who model right behavior and pick them up when they stumble, if they belong to a team, activity or club that they are passionate about with others who share that passion, and if they are invited to grow in their faith through many opportunities for worship and serving others, they can do amazing things. Teenagers flourish here, and they are happy.
By “happy,” of course, we don’t mean they smile all the way through high school! There will be days of disappointment, when they’re frustrated by their performance on a test, or stressed by their workload, or upset by something their parents or their teachers have said to them. Let’s make a pact now as parents and teachers in anticipation of those days when they’re mad at us or mad at you: We agree we will only believe half of what they say about you is true if you agree to believe only half of what they say about us!
We share, after all, the same goal for our kids: We want them to grow into healthy adults, and that means they must leave behind the pleasant irresponsibility of childhood, and that can be painful at times.
But it is also a time for great joy. God’s dream for our children, God’s dream for our students, far exceeds our own. We see limits, whereas God sees infinite horizons. When we take teenagers and immerse them in a culture of optimism, expectation, faith and support, they are elevated to look above the walls of their own limitations and to see beyond—beyond what they once believed about themselves, beyond the cynicism of what society believes about them, even beyond what we who love them may see and hope for them.
The joy for us adults is to witness this transformation, this liberation, as kids grow in confidence in themselves borne out of achievement, as they are exposed to new possibilities, and as they begin to think in new ways.
Onward and upward!