Last Sunday I gave a Youth Fireside at our church. (A fireside is basically an evening where a guest speaker comes to address a specific topic related to the youth). I had only about a week's notice, which is not a long time when you have to fill 30-45 minutes. I serve in the Women's ministry in my church on Sundays, and that's a whole lot easier. With adults, you simply have to make the topic interesting. With youth, you have to make the topic, the delivery and yourself interesting. This generally means trying to have most of the address memorized, because reading from a paper for an hour is boring.
I was asked to talk about the "do's" of the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom is a health code by which we try to live, which encourages health and strength, and honoring our bodies created for us by God. Mostly people refer to it as the reason why we don't drink alcohol or coffee, and why we don't smoke or use illegal drugs. And as a teenager, this is the part you mostly remember - the "don'ts"
However, this is actually a very small part of the health guidelines. The larger part is the "do's": do eat mostly grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and eat meat sparingly. In our age of fast food, convenience food and junk food, this part if often unintentionally neglected.
So, having immersed myself in reading about whole, natural and organic foods over the past six months, I was approached to talk to the teens on this subject.
I opened by having them look over the code with me - and realize themselves how little of it is actually spent on those three "don'ts", and how much more is actually there. I love to teach via self-discovery - a lot less work for me, and a lot more meaningful for them!
Then I had 10 food containers (pots, casserole dishes, etc) on a table and inside each one was an object that demonstrated a point I wanted to make about eating healthy food. Each container corresponded to an interesting fact I had discovered in my reading, something they probably didn't realize. For example, in one pot was a 2 kg bag of sugar. We talked about how much sugar is in soda pop, and that the average teen boy consumes the equivalent of 17 bags of sugar a year in pop alone! Another container revealed two shopping lists that listed the ingredients in making a strawberry shake - homemade and manufactured. There are 5 ingredients in a homemade strawberry shake. There was 7 pages (large font) of ingredients in a fast food shake.
After the fireside I felt really good about the success of it. We laughed, talked, and discussed. They actually participated, which can be a difficult task. I managed to stay mostly off my notes and hit all my points.
But the real confirmation of the success came the next morning. I dropped off Colin at nursery school, which is run by two ladies from church. One of them, Linda, has a teen daughter who was at the fireside. As Linda and I got talking, she made this comment to me:
"Evelyn really enjoyed the fireside last night. She came home and said "Mom, it was surprisingly really good"."
Linda immediately blushed. "Oh, I don't mean she thought you would be boring, she just...I mean...you know, the Word of Wisdom..."
I cut her off. "Linda, that's probably the best compliment I could hope for from the youth!" And it truly was. From an age group that is often sullen and reluctant to engage with adults, I'll take "surprisingly good" any day!
I love working with teens. I know most people would shudder at the thought, but I love the challenge. This is when you can really impact their lives and help shape their futures. I love being a part of that.