This past Saturday morning, my mom and I took our Harvest House New Heights young adults kayaking at Mote Marine. During our day, I heard laughter that was contagious, I saw faces full of joy that had eyes of not too distant sorrow, and I felt hope rise within me as I listened to their dreams. These kids have all met at different times within the last few months, some just a couple weeks ago. Here they were, young people of different races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations, encouraging one another like lifelong friends.
At one point I overheard a conversation that really piqued my interest, so I meandered over to listen in. “I talk to God all the time,” said one young man, “but I don’t feel like he talks back to me and I think that’s the instant gratification thing that texting and social media have created. Then I see the wind and I say to myself, ‘that’s God.’ He’s always been there. Even in my lonely moments. When I take a moment to stop and look at my life, he’s always been there.”
A young lady speaks up, “I want to be a psychologist or something in that field, so I am studying human communication. I think God gave me this gift. I’ve never had anyone tell me that this is my gift, but I think it is. In two seconds, I can tell if someone is insecure and lonely because I’ve been insecure and lonely.” She continues with tears in her eyes, “I know what it’s like. I think we are the most depressed nation in the world and I think it’s because we don’t connect with one another. You see a man with lots of money, yachts, jets, and ten women around him, yet he’s miserable. He’s trying to collect as many possessions as possible to fill his void. He doesn’t know how to connect and be intimate and that’s what he needs. America defines success so differently than developing countries. We value money and possessions, while others value family and friends.” I stand in awe.
The conversation goes on for another 20 minutes. At one point I stopped them to ask, “Have you heard of Brene Brown?” They turned to me with a puzzled look and shook their heads. I told them about her research and that they were discussing her findings. Their look said to me, ‘who needs to research this, just live and you’ll see it all around you.’ I just shut my mouth as they continued to reveal the issues they find to be prevalent in our nation. At this moment, we were standing in the Mote Marine Manatee Viewing Area. I could have stood there listening for hours.
These are eight young adults ages 18 to 21. Each story would bring you to tears, rage, or both. I was lucky to have a few minutes with each one on this trip. I could see in their eyes a longing for connection and belonging. I had a longing to connect with them.
New Heights has been a dream of mine for almost 20 years. Here I was kayaking, laughing, and joking with the very ones I saw in my dreams. I had so many thoughts. “These are my peeps. Why would I do anything else? This is what it’s all about. This is church. This is life. It’s life-giving. I want all the kids. No, I don’t. Be careful what you ask for. Yes, I do. They are full of hope and goodness!”
At the end of the van ride back, I took a few minutes to tell them the things that normally we hear from our parents. “I am so proud of you. You have inspired me today. Each of you has unique gifts and talents that the world needs. You may end up in London with a fancy job, or maybe you’ll work for Harvest House one day, but wherever you land you will always be family. Because, in this moment, you are family. I am so proud of the way you care about each other. Continue to believe in yourself. Now, get out of the van!”
They left with high-fives! Some heading to work and others heading to study for big exams on Monday.
I headed home with tears of joy and gratefulness welling up.
– Erin Minor, Executive Director