Gone to the Dark Side

Our youth group, especially our boys, think I’ve gone to the Dark Side. They’re right: I have, because I’m a Counselor and no longer a Youth.

It’s funny that they consider me more of a youth than Will, our intern. You see, Will’s a year younger than I am, and he’s from Huntsville and graduated from Grissom High, the same school many of our youth attend. Even so, Will’s “official”; me, I’m just a guy who spends a lot of his free time [and some of his vacation] with the youth group.

Of course, because I’ve gone to the Dark Side, I won’t tell them of our plans for revenge on some small practical jokes they played earlier this week. We’re going through our laundry list of easy-to-pull yet nothing-dangerous-or-harmful practical jokes, trying to come up with an appropriate response. The best response? Probably nothing at all, so they keep on waiting.

Well, I really do feel like one of the youth counselors now. I was talking with Anita during a food break this afternoon at Busch Gardens, and we discussed my hectic schedule. “It’s normal,” she said, “and something I should have done.” She described how she went from school and work and sorority to nothing besides work, calling it “really going downhill”. She continued, “With as much time as you spend with the youth, you just need to look at this as your hobby.”

Thinking on it, that’s as apt a description as any. I often choose the youth over my friends [can I get an amen?!] when it comes to my free time. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and before now, I probably couldn’t have told you why. Now, I can: it’s because I really like working with kids this age for two reasons: 1) it reminds me of what I was like at that age and 2) because, well, I’m at the stage where I want to be settled and married and have kids, and in the meantime, I can act like these are my kids for just a few hours a week.

I probably haven’t mentioned this, but Darin did last night to me: the last five or six months, I’ve really only been the steady youth counselor. Various others of our regulars have had to duck in and out for various reasons, and other than Darin, I’ve been the only constant. I’ve really enjoyed it, and the kids have opened up to me in the meantime.

I just thank my God every time I think about it for the opportunity to work with this group of kids. They’re so much cooler than my own youth group was growing up–and that’s not to knock that group, which was a really good group in their own right. What’s different about this group is its diversity: my home group in Forest did lots of things together in school and at church, but this group does lots of things, from sports to band to choir to JROTC. They’re a smart, talented group of kids.

Just don’t let them know I think so highly of them. They might try to use that on me the next time I plot some evil practical joke … 🙂