Saturday, May 7, 2011

My experience in the alternate universe of tweendom

There is a philosophy that says that our ultimate fulfillment happens in the absence of stimulation - that we are searching for serenity and calm.  Fishing, watching ballet or meditation are examples of this human need to empty one's self of noise.

Then there is the philosophy that says we seek stimulation as a means to feeling alive and knowing what truth is.  Roller coasters and rock concerts are examples of this way of thinking.  Essentially, the more that you allow your senses to be overloaded, the more you realize the truth is beyond your physical self.

If the latter is the case, then my experience tonight with 5th ,6th ,7th, and 8th graders at LCBC's student ministry outing called "Compassion 365" has made me a Zen master.  Seriously, we're talking Yoda status.

The whole evening was to celebrate that hundreds of tweeners donated enough supplies for families in the Harrisburg area for 365 days.  It was momentous to realize what these young people did.  And what a party was had!  After sending the trailer off with the donated supplies, there was a concert, ice cream sundaes, live "Angry Birds", photo booths and tons of soda.  And then we took them bowling . . . can you picture the mayhem of hundreds of middle schoolers bowling?  I personally witnessed a young man hurl himself through the air at another student in ninja fashion whispering (loudly) "Unicorn Man!"

I checked my league rules . . . I am pretty sure that doesn't have anything to do with bowling.

I saw students order snacks from the snack bar and then walk off having forgotten they placed an order.  Like fish, they are renewing their consciousness every 15 minutes.

My favorite part was on the way home - I had such a fun time getting to know a half dozen 5th graders, but I am used to getting to know individuals on a shared-attention basis.  That doesn't work with tweens. Essentially I held 6 conversations at once.  It was amazing:

One girl was screaming a riddle to me about two people that wound up being shot and I had to figure out how.  At the exact same moment, over the din of 60 other students, road noise and every window being down on the bus, a young man kept tapping me on the back apparently excited to share his own riddle. At exactly the same moment a group of girls decide to sing "Friday" by Rebecca Black.  About one second later (in the midst of the rest of it) I felt something plastic make contact with my left ear and a tinny rendition of some teen pop song began blasting in my head (apparently the girl behind me thought it was the best moment to expose me to her favorite song).

I literally laughed out loud.  I was having an out-of-body experience.  It was uncontrollable.  All of my ideas of philosophy and theology - spirit, substance, energy, sense and nonsense - all being played out in front of me.  No, it was more like I was treading the choppy waves of youthful vigor and was starting to get mouthfuls of water.  What else could I do but laugh?  It was too much and yet I loved it all.

You can't be a control freak and ride one of these busses.  No, that would be Hades for you.  You sort of have to go with it.  And that is what I did.  And in the midst of it, I was blessed to feel the some of the currents of the next generation.  And I was glad to be a part of the student ministry team at LCBC that 'gets it' about students.

And I am not sure, but I definitely want to look into whether the laughter I experienced comes from God.  Sounds right.


  1. The conversation in my van on the way home went something like this: We sat with Mr Wilkinson on the way home! (obviously a fifth grader since they still call you "Mr"...). He is SO COOL!
    I have to admit that just reading your recap made me feel the need for that absence of stimulation...but it was quite obvious to me that you invested some time in those kids on that bus, and we are so grateful for that! Thank you for all you do!

  2. And that's why I sent you! :) Love that you're such an awesome dad!