Courtney Firthby Courtney Firth.

It’s March. That means I have been working at UUCF for almost 6 months. Many of you have seen me; many more of you I have yet to meet. Either way, I’m sure you have felt the impact of the youth I am privileged to serve as youth ministry coordinator.

My job here is fairly simple: Make sure the youth in grades 7-12 have a great time learning about being UUs as well as their sexuality, finding their spiritual paths and living healthy, open and loving relationships with each other and with the UUCF community. Wow! That really doesn’t sound simple, does it? Except it is, because if you spend an hour with any of these youth, you learn how they do all these things naturally and generally need only guidance and unconditional support for their endeavors.

As an example, I’d like to bring you into one of our 11:15 a.m. high school classes last fall. The youth, being keenly aware of the current political climate, have their own opinions about who should, or should not, be the next president. Since the youth on the Youth Adult Committee choose and lead most class topics, they chose that day to talk about politics; but not politics for politics’ sake. They chose, rather, how to have meaningful and compassionate discussions about politics, with full knowledge that their opinions differed from each other’s. In other words, they wanted to make sure that everyone in the class felt able to express their opinions in a loving and safe space. And they did. The discussion, as always involving the “talking donkey,” (the youth version of a talking stick), was meaningful and honest. There were some hurt feelings and opportunities for growth, but just as I have learned how resilient youth can be, I also saw how kindhearted and generous they can be when it comes to their peers’ feelings. This day they worked through the hurt feelings, “ouches” and “oopses” in a way that I think every presidential candidate should envy.

I have worked with youth and children for many years. At my home congregation, Bull Run Unitarian Universalists, I am amazed by the youth every day, including my own teenage stepdaughter. Whether you work directly with youth, are part of a family with youth or reminisce about your own days as a youth, you are affected by their presence. The impacts they have on the community are only as big as the community allows. You already have youth worship leaders, youth chaplains, youth who take care of your children and youth who have the creativity and tenacity to come up with designs for presidential candidate cookies at a recent cookie decorating party. (There were globs and globs of yellow frosting!)

So it seems my job isn’t so much helping them find their way, but rather supporting them with love and compassion in following the paths they have already found. In so doing, I believe the impacts we could have as a whole community would have the capacity to effect real transformation.