If you head out to any school gym, on any given night, and sit up in the bleachers you’ll see them. They’re trying to make it to their friends, their seats, or just out from the obvious attention they’re getting by walking in front of ‘literally everyone’. They move in increasingly rapid strides as they near the center of the action, desperately trying to move out of the way quickly, but not too quickly, because that’ll draw too much attention.
They’re important walkers.
It’s a phenomenon we’ve all seen, but can easily be overlooked. The other day I was at a basketball game and I noticed them again. They moved in a closely huddled group back from the snack bar to the comfort of their seats, which were near-their-parents, but not too near. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well, kids cutting across the gym floor, or the stands at a football game, the stage at rehearsal, no place is exempt.
As we grow older its easy to forget this phenomenon. Being equally thrilled and mortified at the rush of trying to get to your friends, or your seat as quickly as possible. With age comes perspective, and a desire to camp out, and to skip the snack bar. But to those kids mid jaunt- there’s something significant going on. Wether it’s getting out of the center of attention (there’s a great basketball game going on that everyone is here to watch but, oh no!everyoneisstaringatmeibettergettomyseatquickthisissoembarassingwhatkindofweirdotakesthslongtowalkinfrontofmypeoplewasthatmycrushlookingatmeibettersitdownlikerightnowgoodimherefinally) or simply being excited to see someone, the important walk serves as a clear reminder that perspective changes with age, maturity and perspective. For example, those important walkers hustling across the court today may be the important walkers in a few years taking a carefully calculated stroll to make sure that certain someone knows they are cool enough to walk to the snack bar with their own money.
Meanwhile over at the Louvre in Paris, thousands of people line up daily to see the Mona Lisa. If you haven’t seen the Mona Lisa, it’s a 30” x 17” painting of a lady who may or may not be smiling. Or, if you’re an art lover, It also happens to be considered a masterpiece painted by one of the greatest minds in history.
I’ve got friends who don’t ‘get’ the Mona Lisa. They know it exists, but they have no idea why it’s a big deal. They know it’s attached to an important part of history, and it’s image is used in a lot of places, but if you ask them to break down why it’s important, they struggle. On the other hand, you can sit down with many artists, or art aficionado’s and comb through volumes of thoughts how every slight gesture or change in hue secures the Mona Lisa’s status of masterpiece.
One of the things that I’ve learned from working with teens, is that there is an art form to understanding what is a big deal to others. We may see a teen crush that’ll blow over in a few weeks, but they may not be able to see anything but that crush. We may see the latest gadget that’ll be obsolete this time next year, but they see the item that consumes seemingly every conversation.
Recognizing what is a big deal in the life of others doesn’t stop at youth ministry though. Operating with perspective when dealing with others was one of the masterful strokes of Jesus’ ministry. If you’re the woman at the well, having a Rabbi acknowledge your presence with grace means the world. If you’re a leper who’s used to having others required to avoid you, being touched by a Rabbi is a life changing moment.
A few years ago my friend asked me why I like the Mona Lisa. She said she had tried to understand why that painting was such a big deal. I talked to her about composition, lighting, juxtaposition, the history of da Vinci and that mysterious look on the Mona Lisa’s face. We had a long discussion about art and she asked a ton of questions, letting me geek out on art along the way. The important thing is, she understood that it was a big deal to me. Even when she didn’t ‘get it’, there was never an attitude of dismissal, derogative language, or placating comfort. There was an authentic desire to understand something she knew others saw as important.
May we all seek Jesus’ perspective when it comes to recognizing what is a big deal in the lives of others. May we seek His grace when it comes to dealing with situations that are difficult for those who don’t have the life experience that comes with age. May we ask questions when we don’t understand, and listen well when someone struggles with an answer. And may we all chuckle a little bit and remember that we all have been an important walker at some point in time.
One love, one heart.