The Wisdom of Teenagers

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf Published in the Albert Lea Tribune on September 6, 2018

sprinkled ColumnMany kids these days don’t know the song called “School Days” written in 1907. I’m not that old, but my mom loved the song as she was a teacher. The first verse went something like this: “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days, readin’ and writin’ and ’rithmetic, taught to the tune of the hickory stick.”

Today I think the “hickory stick” would be considered child abuse if I get the meaning right, which to me meant if you didn’t behave you got the hickory stick. During the time I was in school, it wasn’t unusual for a nun to rap a child’s hand with a ruler — I was scared to death to speak in case the ruler would be directed at my hand. I know that is hard to believe since I am a chatty person but my parents at conferences always heard that I needed to speak up, raise my hand and answer questions.

In high school it wasn’t unusual for someone to have to bend over and grab their ankles if they were misbehaving, especially from one teacher. We all loved this teacher, and though it happened I don’t know that any hard feelings linger. It also wasn’t unusual to hear someone had been slapped or berated and yelled at in the principal’s office. And if those things happened, our parents were even tougher on us at home.

It is 2018, and the word on the old people street is that kids have changed. It is harder to teach because kids are more disrespectful, teachers can’t discipline and teenagers are out of control. I dislike when we lump all kids and teenagers together. I happen to love teenagers. They have always been my favorite group to work with. I love their honesty, how they keep us honest and real because they call us adults out occasionally in our behavior, and they do have wisdom beyond their years. Their world is much different than the world I grew up in. Teenagers today deal with social media, broken homes, academic pressure and also problems such as bullying, homelessness, LGBT issues, suicide, and stress.

One morning this past summer, I followed my church youth group’s media page as they traveled to the National Youth Convention in Houston, Texas. I was surprised and impressed with the posts of one young lady called Aly. She was very insightful, so I decided I wanted to know more about her interactions at this convention.

This is the post which caught my eye: 

Have you ever had communion @ mass with over 30,000 people? We have! day 5//we started off the day with Sunday morning mass, where we praised the Lord one last time with the ELCA groups from around the country. On the way to church in the morning, my mom & I met this amazing lady. She was originally born in New Jersey, but now lives in h-town. When my mom asked who she lives here with, the first thing she said with a big smile on her face was “no one, I travel with God”. I instantly knew this chat with her would be one of the most powerful things I will experience on this trip. We started off talking about how we were going to have a church service with over 30,000 young people who have come across the country. The conversation only developed & got deeper from there. Some things she said that has stuck with me are:
“I travel with God’s grace everywhere I go”

“We the people are the church, I take it w me everywhere I go”

“I just enjoy the fight (of life), if you don’t like the fight then you’re not gonna make it here very long”

“Anyone trying to take down your faith is the devil”

“I am the spirit of my dreams”

“You’ve gotta strut because Jesus is the only way in (to heaven)”

These are just a few. To most of you, this may just seem like this was just an ordinary small talk conversation. But it left both my mom & I in tears when my mom told her that I am her daughter, the lady looked @ me & said: “& shes your strength”. It made us both cry. but the EXTREMELY ironic thing about this conversation with this woman was that what she was preaching to us was EXACTLY what the speakers @ the youth gathering the previous night before were saying. The speakers just kept repeating how WE are the church & those were the exact words this woman said to us. She was so into our conversation she ended up missing her stop, but she was so content about it. She said, “That was God’s work, this conversation is happening for a reason”. @ that moment I knew I had seen God already that day. Another thing we told her was that a speaker the previous night had said, “We just need more love in this world”, but this woman told us that there is already PLENTY of love in this world right now, people just need to learn how to share it. This woman will leave an impact on me for the rest of my life

 

 

I decided to interview Aly. I asked why she chose to go to this convention. She explained her pastor wanted the youth to start helping people, learn more about themselves and God. Aly’s faith changed during confirmation classes, and her mentor was a big part of that. She learned that talking about faith wasn’t something to be ashamed of.

Aly didn’t know what to expect of the convention. The speakers had an impact. She stated, “There wasn’t a time I didn’t have goosebumps. We had speakers who addressed what we are going through in our lives and touch us every day, things we don’t address in our smaller churches and these problems are our world, too, and it helps us understand what is happening and how God connects us to love others.”

We don’t often have homeless people on the streets of Wells or Albert Lea. They are there but hidden, and that was one of the other takeaways for Aly from being in a larger city.

“People were on the streets with blankets and some had tents, just random people, women, and children, too. I learned to not be scared while doing some mission work. They aren’t bad people. They have suffered some bad circumstances.”

Aly is one teenager who chose to speak out on her learning experiences of that which is different and that which expanded her faith. There was 30,000 youth at this convention. Other churches have conventions and mission trips teaching teenagers of a different world than the one they live in. It expands their humanity, their world and their vision for the future.

When I asked Aly what else helped move her faith forward one of her answers was CRAVE. CRAVE describes itself as a party with a message of purpose. CRAVE was started after a friend of the co-founder died of suicide. CRAVE came to our community this summer.   One of the comments of one of the speakers still stands out in Aly’s mind. The statement was from a former drug dealer and he said, “My first job was being a drug dealer, and now I don’t deal drugs, I deal hope.” It reminded her people are going through struggles in faith, in living and relationships, and there is hope. She hopes to carry that hope into the future.

I like to listen to what teenagers have to say about the way we adults interact with them, so I asked what our small-town churches can do for our teens today. Aly suggested our small-town churches need to address the subjects our teenagers are struggling with today, which were addressed at the ELCA youth gathering.

After listening to not just Aly, but other teenagers, I feel we, as adults, need to address these issues from the pulpit and offer tools and support for them. We need to offer acceptance rather than judgment, so they feel the church is a soft place to fall in times of trouble — a community of all ages to guide them through their challenges. We need to not sweep what is happening in today’s society and what we perceive as large-city problems under the rug and never talk about the elephants in the room. We have the same issues in smaller communities; we may choose to ignore them because of fear or lack of understanding or hoping by ignoring they will go away.  Teenagers are not alien or bad; they are teenagers with vast wisdom — which may be different than an adult but wisdom non-the-less — and they want to be heard.

Teenagers may not always go about getting our attention the right way, but underneath the lashing out are real feelings. We need to see beyond the actions and hear the unspoken words. They are our future.

“We need space to discuss unspoken, uncomfortable dark truths.” —Janet Mock

Reunions Set Us Free

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune August 20, 2018 ©️Julie Seedorf

Julie Seedorf: Let go of perceptions and look beyond words

By Julie Seedorf

Email the author

Published 8:30 pm Sunday, August 19, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

By the time you read this, my 50th class reunion will be one for the books. I have learned so much about people since I graduated in the class of 1968 those many years ago. I am a different person than I was then.

I am not so self-centered, although you may disagree with me because we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us. I hurt more because I care more about others. Back then, the hurts were more about wrongs done to us, perceived or otherwise.

I have learned those we thought were stuck-up — yes the term back then — were shy, making it hard for them to put themselves out there for fear of being ridiculed or hurt and it was scary for them to make the first move in a friendship.

I have learned those who were loud and blustery, quick to wound with words to others, were covering insecurity, and that was their way of compensating and trying to feel better about themselves. I suspect they were walled up and hurting inside or were not in touch with what was really behind the name-calling and attacks on others.

I have learned those who kept their sexual orientation secret were miserable in a world where it was not acceptable to be who they were if it differed from society’s opinions of what was right, so the secret stayed hidden, resulting in problems later in life with families and deciding whether life was worth living, some choosing the path to suicide.

I have learned getting the best grades do not make us the smart ones — it just meant that we were good at studying or test-taking. In case you wonder, I wasn’t one of those good studiers, always feeling stupid because my interests were on more creative endeavors.

I have judged the quiet ones, the blustery ones, the ones who I suspected were choosing a different sexual orientation and those who were the smart ones. But, in my old age, I find myself questioning my attitudes and my judgment because I wasn’t necessarily making my own choices when I judged someone. I went along with the crowd, and, yes, at times I was the crowd leader. I wanted to belong.

I am a chatty person so the quiet ones made me nervous, and I felt perhaps they were judging me.

I was scared of those who were loud and blustery and cruel because I didn’t want to be their target, so it was easier to go along with it than to be the one attacked. I remember a boy telling me — and, yes, I still remember this boy’s name because he was a member of a prominent well-to-do family in town — that I was ugly so I knew I didn’t want to cross him. I had lots of friends, boyfriends too, but yet this one time I was targeted sticks with me to this day. I am lucky that is the only time I remember cruelty directed at me, but I am sure there were other times but they weren’t so devastating.

And now because I took the time to know people who are gay and transgender and have asked them deep questions, I am not afraid as I think I was back in the day when I made the judgment. I thought I was making a judgment based on religion, but in reality I was basing judgment on the fear that somehow their lifestyle might affect me or they were a danger to me. I found out years ago those I was friends with and those I loved had kept those secrets. I loved them before I knew their secret. You don’t stop loving and caring about someone when they make choices you aren’t sure about. I took the time to hear their struggle and their hurts, and my judgment went away and so did my fear.

I now understand smart doesn’t always mean the best grades but smart means each person is different and talented in other ways and we need all the gifts each person brings to the table to make this world work. We also need those from all walks of life, rich and poor, different ethnicities to build our lives and make them richer.

I would be lying if I said I don’t judge still today because I do, and it has been difficult trying to walk between the lines of the political rhetoric going on today. Sometimes I attack without thinking in many things when I began to judge. It is a knee-jerk reaction that I fear is human. I don’t always succeed right away in pulling it back and realize what I am doing.

There are some who have never been back to our class reunions, citing hurts from many years ago. I get that. When I am ready to go out that door, I still have a little trepidation that I won’t be accepted and the old feelings come back, but I push through and make an appearance and I have never been sorry in all the reunions over the years I have attended. Time and experiences make people change. If we let go of our perceptions and look beyond the words, we see the years of life in those we spent our early years with. It feels good to reconnect. Maybe it is our perception of us that had to change, finally being secure in who we are and being confident others reactions don’t matter because we are “free to be me.”

Is Honesty the Normal Policy?

Something About Nothing

by Julie Seedorf

© August 2018

published in the Albert Lea Tribune Sunday, August 12, 2018

 

The Dog Days of Summer was going to be the topic of my column this week until I saw “Reality Check” by Pat Kessler on WCCO television. The topic was an ad by Governor Candidate Tim Pawlenty where he claims he will stop undocumented immigrants from stealing millions from Minnesota. The ad claims Minnesota is wasting hundreds of millions giving free health care to people who are not eligible.

Now before you begin attacking me for being biased for one party over another I have said before, I vote for the candidate, not the party. Long, long ago I did vote for Tim Pawlenty, one time.

In “Reality Check” Kessler stated the 2016 non-partisan study by the office of the Minnesota Legislative Auditor which the ad is based on, is true and it is true that the office reviewed a sampling of thousands of Minnesota Medicaid and Minnesota Care files and found 30 percent of the participants may have been ineligible. Many did not qualify for the program for which they were enrolled and others were not eligible at all. The study is real but it is an exaggeration that undocumented immigrants are responsible. The audit does not say that. It cites immigration as a small fraction of the problem. The audit blames lack of oversight, poor training and lack of updated software for the problem. Undocumented workers are not the problem.

I suspect the ad is misleading because immigration is a hot button topic right now and we are quick to place blame on illegal immigrants because it riles people up and gets our attention when in reality the truth is somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong I suspect both sides do this. It is up to us to sift through the information and find the truth and it can be hard to do with so many fake news sites and real news sites that do not give us both sides of the issue. Being informed is not easy. It is time-consuming and hard work.

I will admit to not making informed decisions on occasion in my voting in the past. I will admit to passing on news of Social Media sites that I take at face value not looking into the validity or the truth of what is being said. I will admit to not being the smartest bulb on the planet in many areas and politics may be one of them because I have not done my homework. But it is no longer acceptable for me to vote for someone because I think they are a nice person or they are a friend. I have done that in the past and voted blindly because I liked someone’s personality and what they are showing to the world.

Let’s face it we do not personally know the people we are voting for. We make assumptions based on what they look like and what they project in the public eye. It is easy to change our public persona and if we are a good pitchman or a persuasive person. It is even easier to sway opinion no matter what field we work in. We might actually be a vile person. Think of serial killers and how surprised people are to find out about their dark side when they have only known them as being a friendly neighbor or good guy or gal.

After listening to Pat Kessler I decided to do my own reality check on some social media posts that are being passed around on both the Republican and Democratic side of the coin. It was amazing what the facts were once they were found some actually on the Government website such as Social Security and the benefits for Welfare pages proving the posts to be false or half-truths. Again the truth was skewed and facts were somewhere in the middle. Both the conservative and the liberal websites skewed the truth. Only the websites which presented both sides of the issue were anywhere near the truth.

Because we are so quick to believe that which sides with our viewpoint, we may be passing along untruths to further an agenda which is not based on facts or truth. We point fingers at the other side and place blame which in many instances is unfair in its basis.

Primaries are coming up. I would urge each and every one on both sides of the spectrum to take the time to do your research and flush out the truth whether it agrees with your opinion or not. The truth is important. It is time we quit making decisions based on what is fed to us through the proliferation of advertising for each candidate which may only have half of the truth woven in the statements being made.

I believe we owe it to our country, to our children and to ourselves to quit the rhetoric, make informed decisions based on rational thinking and vote for candidates who represent honestly what they are spouting and hold them accountable to the truth.  That is if we can find one who doesn’t skew the truth to make themselves look good. That in itself may be a frustrating journey. It seems candidates today think they can’t be honest to win an election.

Oh and by the way, here is another truth. Just because I am an author it doesn’t mean I am the smartest bulb in the planet when it comes to literary works either. Trivia friends this means you. There too I tend to only pay attention to books which fit my reading personality, light and fluffy. It is good I don’t have to vote on anything there