Seeing Those Around Us With Open Eyes, And A Listening Ear

Granted, I love conversing with people. One of my nicknames is “Chatty Kathy” and in my line of work and ministry, this gift serves me well! It isn’t difficult for me to strike up conversations, and guess what? It doesn’t have to be difficult for any of us if we have open eyes and a listening ear. The answers we find can be stunning, sometimes surprising, and many times beautiful.

About those tattoos and piercings…

“Tell me about your art.”

This began one of my favorite encounters of all time. I simply acknowledged a server’s tattoos at a restaurant. He was almost speechless. I don’t know if it was that I called it art, cared about his story, or was positive instead of negative or indifferent, but he was clearly moved. We had a great conversation and I was honored to hear what was behind each tattoo.

“I’m guessing your piercing signifies something important. I’d love to hear your story if you’d like to share it.”

I’ll never forget this teen boy’s reaction as I settled into my seat on the airplane. He was visibly stunned that I would know that his unusual piercing was probably important to him. He was clearly surprised to have an older adult even acknowledge him, much less care about him. I will never forget his answer. I don’t want to.

“My dad finally told me he loved me and I don’t ever want to forget.”

Now I was the one who was speechless.

Workshop Attendees Take Up the Challenge; Joy Replaces Judgment

“I love your hair. Would you mind telling me what products you use?”

A number of years ago, I challenged hundreds of women at a retreat to think about whether their opinions of teens were fair and right. For example, I asked how many of them held their purses tighter and closer to their bodies when walking past teens in a mall. Many admitted they did. This forced them to confront a belief about an entire generation based on a few bad apples who had made the headlines.

I shared my love of and respect for the generation. I  encouraged them to find a positive reason soon to talk with one or more teens in hopes their attitudes would change.

That afternoon, while on a break from the retreat, a group of women went to a movie theater. When they arrived back at the retreat center, one older woman couldn’t wait to tell me what happened.

While in line to purchase popcorn, she noticed how long and beautiful an older teen boy’s hair was. In the past, she admits she would have simply thought and possibly mumbled to a friend that his hair was far too long. This time, though, she turned to him and told him she loved his hair. But, then she went further and honored him more by asking, “Would you mind telling me what products you use?” She told me how much he clearly enjoyed telling her about his routine. He thanked her for her interest.

This encounter didn’t just help to change her attitudes about this generation. It changed her. She felt significant and optimistic. She realized that one conversation can increase hope and joy.

Sometimes The Questions Come Our Way

“Why did you do that?”

“Jesus loves you and God told me to give.”

This began the friendship between a college student and my friend, Andrea. Except for a casual encounter, they didn’t know each other and it didn’t appear that they had anything in common. Yet, Andrea was inspired by God to contribute along with many others so he could attend an advanced study summer opportunity.

This young student didn’t understand why a complete stranger 20 years older than he was would help him. He stopped by to ask. In Andrea’s answer, they discovered they had Jesus in common. They ate lunch together several times after this and Andrea made sure to pay attention to his academic progress. Although they didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, Andrea always put Jesus first and trusted Him to care for her friend. This is her typical was of being. I love this about her.

This young man graduated in May and relocated to Orlando. When Andrea learned about the tragic loss of life there, she texted him on Sunday morning very concerned. She heard from him several hours later.

This young man had been at the nightclub earlier that week but wasn’t there at the time of the shooting. She texted back and communicated her relief that he was well.

After reading some of his Facebook posts since the tragedy, she knew he wasn’t dealing well with what had happened. He admitted to being fearful, lonely, angry, and frustrated.

Andrea reached out to a good friend of mine who lives in Orlando who she only knows on Facebook. He quickly responded, “Yes, share my contact information with your friend. Thank you for caring.”

She texted her friend, sharing the contact information, and received this response: “TY so much! I am all alone in Orlando, no friends or family. And so frightened.”

God did this because Andrea is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and reached out to this student even though they’re quite different. She chose to hang out with him at lunch and was eager to talk about Jesus.

God did this because I’m friends with many people not exactly like me. Andrea friended one of them years ago, has enjoyed getting to know him, reached out, he said “yes,” and now Andrea’s friend isn’t alone during a very challenging time.

That’s beautiful. That’s the power of conversation, connecting, and God.

One observation. One comment. One question. One conversation. One relationship. Then two. Three. More. Hope is transferred. Jesus is, too.

Freedom To Think, Freedom To Speak

If you want those around you to think, start with respect.

On Saturday night, I observed something beautiful. Picture this. Four teenagers, their parents, and their three grandparents were all in the living room. A friend and I were also there.

Our conversation went here and there and it was truly enjoyable and stimulating. Asking, answering, talking, listening, laughing, respecting.

The oldest teen, who just finished her freshman year in college, spoke up. She respectfully stated her opinion about something and was able to back it up with reasons that were solid to her.

I waited.

No pushback. No disagreements. No shock expressed by anyone. Her sisters didn’t disrespect her. No adult made her feel bad or stupid. She hadn’t been either.

I imagine at least some of the adults in the room were concerned about her opinion or her reasons for her opinion, but they didn’t argue or negate her. No one wrung their hands worried. There were no sideways glances. None of us were plotting, immediately thinking about how we could get her to change her mind. That wouldn’t have been the place to do it.

Joy Abounds At Tech Free Church Camp

More Kids Enjoy Being Offline Than You Might Think

On Monday night at camp, three-fourths of the students raised their hands. Interesting! I believe even more would have raised their hands on Thursday if they would have been asked the same question.

930 middle school and high school students from one church spent last week at camp together. They were without phones or other handheld devices. I was so glad to be there to speak.

Mud pit. Unique slides and other activities in the lake. Mountain biking. Crate stacking. Zip line. Rappelling. Riflery. Slip ‘n Slide. Archery. Orienteering. Hiking. Super swing. So much more.

The Selfishness of Digital Life ‘On Demand’

Today, we’re posting an article I wrote for Christianity Today’s website called Her.meneutics. I’m very encouraged by how people are responding to the ideas presented in Screens and Teens. Have you invested in yourself and kids you know by reading it yet? How about starting with these ideas?

Please consider reading this with teens and young adults and letting the ideas stimulate a discussion.

The Selfishness of Digital Life ‘On Demand’
By Dr. Kathy Koch for Christianity Today – Her.meneutics
March 2015

The use of technology can cause any of us to become self-centered. It’s so focused on the consumer! If you trawl online one afternoon for a certain kind of T-shirt or new boots, advertisers for T-shirts and boots will appear on your Facebook news feed for weeks. When you buy a book on Amazon.com or borrow one via a library app, book suggestions will appear, tailored just for you based on your buying preferences and books that other people bought who also purchased the book you did. That computer seems to know you and be conforming to your particular needs! The computer reinforces the untruth: It’s all about me!

Belonging Is A Need We All Have – Putting Facebook In Perspective

Belonging is a need we all have. In our Student Improvement Plan, we define it as “having healthy connections with trustworthy people, including those with similar strengths and interests and those who are different.”

Helping students develop healthy belonging was one of our main goals during our abstinence-until-marriage and alcohol-reduction grants. It was exhilarating to see them make progress toward this goal.

Addressing the issue of “belonging” remains important to me for many reasons. For the purposes of this post, it is partly because of my own use of Facebook  as well as the incredible rise of online social networks. Did you know that it has been recently reported that Facebook now has 750 million users?  That is world history in the making and being documented at every turn. Almost 1/6th of the entire planet is utilizing this one online resource.  That is a lot of adults and teens wanting to feel a sense of connection online.

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed?

Project Based Learning Works for Millennials

We’ve decided here at Celebrate Kids, Inc., that there’s something more important than what methods teachers use and what skills they’re teaching. Yes, we’re excited about helping teachers and students understand, embrace, and use 21st-Century skills. We’re fans of authentic tasks and see benefits of project-based learning, especially when it starts with young children and they come to expect some of their learning and practicing of content and skills to be embedded in projects. This means they gain character qualities and skills necessary for successful project-based learning early on.

But, what’s more important? Teachers, administrators, parents, and others who care about young people must understand who they’re teaching. When we understand WHY projects, authentic tasks, and applying knowledge vs. just learning it works for our students (not us), we’ll know what type of teaching methods and assignments to use.

Millennials And Their Experiences

In my last post, I wrote about the value Millennials place on relationships. (Millennials are those born after 1982.) They also place high value on experiences. That’s the subject of this post.

Change is constant for Millennials. Many things in their world do not last. They often report feeling as if their opinions don’t matter and knowledge becomes irrelevant almost immediately after they’ve learned it. Their toys are broken and some things they’ve saved for and purchased became quickly outdated. They want and need things that last. That’s where experiences come in.

No one can take their experiences away from them. They’re real in the moment and they last and can be relived alone and with friends.

Another reason Millennials value experiences is that they don’t want to do the same thing over and over. Video games have taught them that each time they have the “same” experience, it can be different. This is why you may notice young people using different procedures each time they do the “same” task.

Milliennials And Their Relationships

If you’ve been confused by today’s young people, you’re not alone. They can make choices that surprise us. That’s what their observable behavior is, you know. It all starts with choice. A choice to believe this or that. To do this or that. To feel this or that. To say this or that.

Because of the culture, Millennials, those born after 1982, value relationships and experiences.

Think about what you value. Do these things influence your decisions, choices, and opinions? Sure, they do. So, think about your students, children, and grandchildren. They’re making decisions based on their need for experiences and the high value they place on relationships. That’s not wrong, just different.