Transitions by Mr. Barb Greve (with Tim Atkins)
Reflection by Tim Atkins
My name is Tim Atkins, and I’m going to do my best to get through this homily without crying. Without a doubt, being a youth adviser is not just the most meaningful experience I’ve had at UUCA, it’s been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I’ve loved every moment of it. As Katherine Graham once said, “To love what you do and feel that It matters – how could anything be more fun?”
One of the first things I did at UUCA was teach RE, specifically the 7th Grade neighboring faiths class. They wanted me to work with high schoolers, but alas, I was only 23 at the time. After teaching for a few years, I made the move on up to working with high school youth. Those first couple of weeks were a little intimidating and filled with doubt. Would I be able to connect with the high school youth? Would I be able to get the youth motivated to discuss different topics? Would I really be able to sound like I knew what I’m talking about?
Turns out those answers were yes, didn’t matter, and it really didn’t matter. I’m not sure if I connected with the youth first or they connected with me first – but either way, that worry was out the window in the span of a couple of weeks. It didn’t matter if I could motivate the youth to talk because the youth motivated themselves. I was there to help guide, not to help start. And it really didn’t matter if I knew what I was talking about – because youth group is all about discovery. And not just the youth’s discovery, but discovering what I think and feel as well.
It was a much different world than the curriculum focused courses. There was more freedom with the structure, which led to more freedom for leadership. I’ve seen high school youth stepping up to suggest class topics and lead class topics. I’ve seen youth challenge each other and comfort each other. I’ve seen youth who were trying to make sense of this crazy world just like I was. I knew I was home.
I’ve now been a youth advisor for, gosh, five years now I think. And aside from that making me feel rather old, I’ve learned so many lessons – not just about what makes a great youth group run, not just about how to best support youth in terms of leadership and moral development – I’ve learned a lot of lessons about myself.
I’ve shared more than I ever thought I would. I’ve heard youth share more than they ever thought they would.
I’ve not only seen youth grow into leaders capable of handling themselves in almost any situation, I’ve helped make that happen.
I’ve not only seen youth moved to tears, I’ve been moved to tears as well.
I’ve not only seen youth realize their calling, I’ve realized my own.
I firmly believe if you change one life you’ve changed the entire world. And youth advisers help change the world by helping our youth change their own lives. And our lives as youth advisers have been changed by each and every youth we work with.
If given the opportunity to become one of our youth advisers, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Not only will you change lives, your life will be changed.
But being a youth advisor can be tough though. Don’t get me wrong, it is far and away the most rewarding thing that I have ever done, inside or outside UUCA. The bonds I’ve made with each of the youth mean more to me than words can say. But as any youth advisor can tell you, we get attached to our kids. We work with them for multiple years, see them grow into incredible human beings, and we help them facilitate their own growth.
And then they go.
Sure, we get to see them during breaks, we get to see and hear about the amazing things they are doing with their lives. But they leave us to go off and do bigger and better things. And it’s tough. Because we are so proud of them, unbelievably proud of them. Words can’t express how proud of them we are. But we’re going to miss them.
But as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes,
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to seek, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to cast away.
And it’s time.
Now, I want to take a moment to address our youth, in particular our bridgers.
As you know, one of the sayings that bubbled up over the past couple of years was “What would Tim Do.” I think it started off as what I would do when running a meeting, but it has evolved from there.
And here’s why that phrase used to bug me. It doesn’t matter what I would do. It matters what you do. It’s not what would Tim do but what would you do. What will you do when you graduate and are free floating out there on your own? Will you seek out a community like you found here? Will you build one like you’ve built here?
What will you do?
Will you stay true to yourself? Your inner voice? Will you nurture that light inside of you and let it burn bright for the entire world to see?
What will you do.
So I have a charge for you, Backseat Owain, Frontseat Owen, Sophia, Lena, David, Aspen and all of our youth. I know each of you and each of you has that inner voice. Listen to that inner voice. It will never lead you astray.
What will you do.
You’re about to go off to a whole new world. College is great, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the experience. That can be totally liberating, but it can also be totally terrifying. Remember your time here, remember what you’ve discussed in the past four years, remember everything you’ve learned in your time within this sanctuary. You’ll always have a home here.
What will you do.
I hope these past four years have been as amazing for you as they have been for me. It’s been an honor, a true honor, to work with such an amazing group of individuals. I know each of you and love each of you. And I don’t just love you because of the difference each of you has made in my life, what you’ve done or what you will do, but I love each of you for who you already are.
You know, I’m flashing back to teaching y’all in the seventh grade. And now look at you…I know each of you and am proud of each of you. And not just proud of what you will do or proud of everything you’ve already done, I’m proud of each you for who you are right now.
Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a person anything you can only help him find it within himself.” I hope I’ve helped you find those things already inside yourself.
And I ask this of you, in my last duty as your high school youth advisor, never forget, never forget. Never forget your time here at UUCA. Never forget the friendships and relationships you’ve built here at UUCA. Never forget that I will always be there for you, no matter where I actually am. Never forget that Sue, Amelia, and Larry will always be there for you. And never, ever forget that this community will always be there for you. We will be there for the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. We will be there for the check ins and the check outs, the ouches and oopses. We will be there for the joys and the concerns, the steps up and the steps back. We will be there for victories and the struggles, the nightmares and the dreams.
And it’s been a dream working with you. Thank you for the past four years.