Now and again I have the pleasure of spending time with a truly remarkable group of high school girls. You may call me a "leader", "mentor", or simply a friend - but I often learn just as much from their lives as they do from mine, I imagine. I continue to be amazed at their maturity, joy, and spirit. We get together regularly to share stories and discuss life, love, Jesus, and the latest happenings around the world - which I love. But I think my favourite aspect of our little community is when we take an evening to tutor a group of kids on the west side of Chicago.
Allow me to paint the picture for you:
These girls are smart, beautiful, talented, blonde/brunette, off to college in the fall, middle class, white, suburban, and witty.
These kids we tutor are smart, but many still struggle in the classroom, beautiful, talented in some very unique ways, with an unknown future, middle to lower class, African American, urban, and hilarious.
Isn't that beautiful?
I once read that Chicago is America's most segregated big city.
These kids couldn't be more different from each other. Sitting in a very weary old church building in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, teaching math and reading to a hodgepodge of students from the 'hood, our group of high school girls from the 'burbs couldn't be more out of their element.
Or could they? Why does this picture have to seem so strange? Why do you suppose it makes their parents a little uneasy? And how will this unique interaction affect the lives of both groups of students?
We were there today, actually, shlepping our way through a math comprehension test. They taught us some slang, and we attempted to spell their unusually beautiful names. I think we all left with a little more joy, a greater understanding of people and the world, and a broader vocabulary. It is such a small thing. Just a couple hours out of the day. But I think it's also pretty grand. This diverse group of students are living out the dream of people like Jane Addams, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard.
Hey world, this is your future. And I'm not just talking about one of these groups of kids, I'm talking about all of them together. This. This picture. This medley of talented, determined, extraordinary students are the future.
I am grateful for this opportunity we have to be a part of something so much bigger than what we know. I am grateful for the willing and joyful spirits of these high school girls. And I am thankful for the kids tonight, who take us as we are, laugh at our "white-ness," accept a bit of guidance, and teach us how to be a better version of ourselves.