Kindness: 101

This last Friday, we held our first Youth Retreat! It’s probably not the first Youth Retreat that has ever been held at by our church…but it was the first one in some time. Our youth group teamed up with the Youth Group of the Federated Church of South Berwick to host a “Random Acts of Kindness” Retreat. We wound up with 27 teenagers between 6th and 9th grade camped out over night at Union Congregational Church in York.

As we were preparing the retreat, we had some general questions:

Teenagers are really busy. Are they going to have time for this?

Do teens want to spend 12 hours together learning about what the Christian tradition has to teach about “kindness?”

Will anyone actually show up to this thing?

It turns out the answer to all these questions was an emphatic YES!

27 kids, 7 adults…people showed up in larger numbers than we had really planned for.

It turns out most kids and families do not have any open time in their schedule, not even on a Friday night…but they chose to attend the retreat rather than do other things. Some people delayed weekend plans, others skipped out of town trips, and one youth notified his coach that he wouldn’t make his soccer game Saturday morning, because he had a Youth Retreat to attend.

Depending on how closely you are paying attention to our world and our young people, you may or may not be surprised to learn just how eager these folks were to talk about Kindness. We talked about what kindness is, and why it is such a powerful and important thing in human life. We studied what our tradition teaches about where kindness comes from. We challenged popular conceptions of kindness…who is “supposed” to be kind…who is “deserving” of kindness? The evening ended with 6th graders realizing that even the unpopular kids in the lunch room are in need of kindness in their lives. 7th graders started to realize they have the ability to give lonely peers the gift of kindness. 9th graders gave thanks for having a space where they could express themselves, and be appreciated for what they had to offer.

We also passed on the most sacred of American Youth Group experiences: a Spoons Tournament!

If you are ever on the verge of wondering if our Way of Life is still relevant, or if it is outdated…if you’re ever wondering how different kids today are from kids of the past…I urge you to join us for our next Youth Group event. It will strengthen your faith in the God of Love at the center of all things…and it will revive your faith in humans, too.

Brian Gruhn