Senior citizen blankets plus mine
As a recreational crier I had the privilege of getting in some tears early as this admirable group of kids and their dedicated chaperones posed for photos before the youth pastor had us circle for a quick prayer for safe travels and thanking US for sharing our kids (he's taking my kid for a week and he's thanking me? ) before hollering "Hug and kiss and load 'em up!" A tear jerking moment for me inspirational enough to consider volunteering my time on future missions. But it passed...as it does. Philanthropic use of my free time dedicated to the civic, moral and emotional development of young people? That boat sailed a long time ago and I found myself waving from the marina bar.
Later when I had lunch with the softball gang and bore witness to my kid's do-gooder posse, especially marveling at the adults who sign up to do these trips with forty teenagers, one of the softball dads replied cavalierly "Well, those types of kids aren't like these kids." I peered down the table at our sassy superstars wondering where avid sports dad was going.
"Most kids like the ones that play sports can be too aggressive and unruly and that isn't the kind of kid that goes on mission trips." The implication being that kids who go on mission trips are easier to travel with than the yahoos at our lunch table. It was a generalized statement about pretty diverse bunches of kids both in the church youth group and on the softball diamond. But simplicity aside, is it accurate in any way? Although kids try on lots of hats in adolescence, my experience is that despite the hat they have a deeper, inherent sense of their own universal personal truths (hate bugs, homesickness, hate parents) and know the limits of what they can ask of themselves. And so do kids who know they can't possibly be well behaved riding in a hot van for seventeen hours across Minnesota and South Dakota generally avoid signing up for such things? I'm sure the youth minister could tell a story or two of some mission trip antics by the most saintly of children, but overall softball dad's theory might not be totally off.
Regardless of how well behaved and inspired the group of kids is on the mission trip I'm sure the chaperones will be the first ones disembarking from the vans in a week with their hands in the air like they just don't care. It's an unbelievably generous emotional commitment and a lot of psychic wear and tear to keep even good kids from offending Native Americans and wandering off into the plains of South Dakota to chase prairie dogs.
Meanwhile left to my own devices, friends and I attended Madison Opera in the Park. Despite the icky old people on the adjacent blanket seriously groping each other through their clothes and the tenor's voice blowing out on more than one note, there is nothing bad that can be said about drinking wine and listening to music outdoors on a blanket. But we prayed hard for the darkness to come, cloaking the oldsters' foot rubbing. back massaging and thigh entwining from our bleeding eyes. Seriously gross and no amount of mind bleach can erase the horror when I close my eyes.