My husband and I were talking over dinner tonight about people who have made big impacts in our lives and it got me thinking. Investing time and love in other human beings is so important not only for their growth, but for ours. There are a few people who have greatly invested in me over the years, so much so that I don't think I would be who I am today without them or their guidance, wisdom, faith, and love.
I can't say this enough - I think it is so important to invest our time and effort into others, especially the youth. And it's important to share our faith. You never know how you could change someone's life.
I didn't grow up in a church-going family, so I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the close friends I had growing up that had families that invested in me. I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and had a wonderful friend named Connie. Connie's family cared about me enough to take me to church with them on many Wednesday evenings. When we were young, I would often join Connie for Awanas on Wednesday nights where I would learn about God and memorize Bible verses. These are some of my favorite memories as a child.
When we moved back to Indiana, I met Jeannie. Jeannie's family also started taking me to church on Wednesday nights along with our friend, Stephanie. Each Wednesday, we would all go to dinner together and then head to the church for youth group. This is where I was saved and came to know God on a more intimate level. I loved spending that time with Jeannie and Stephanie. Jeannie's family made huge impact in my life, more than they probably will ever know.
In high school, I had a softball coach that really challenged me to grow in my faith. We became close friends and she invested so much into my life. When my dad had his accident, she was there every single day for me, offering up prayer and asking if I needed her to come to the hospital to get my mind off of things. She sent me care packages, cards, encouraging notes, and Bible verses every day. She led a prayer group that prayed for my dad. She was an amazing friend. Autumn died in a car accident in 2009, but I smile knowing that I will see her again someday. I hope she knows the difference she made in my life.
Then there is my grandma, Nancy. My grandma has loved and encouraged me in more ways than I can say. I could always talk to her about anything, especially my faith. I have so many cherished memories of her, especially when I was in college since I lived so close to her. We would stay up all night talking and she would tell me stories about when she was growing up. She would talk through problems with me, encourage me, and tell me what the Bible would say about a particular issue. She was the best. My grandmother passed away in 2013, but I love telling people about her and the great impact she made in my life. I miss her every single day.
And then there's Cohen. I could say so much about Cohen, but the bottom line is this - she encourages me daily to live my life to the fullest and take things one day at a time. She teaches me about strong faith. She teaches me about love. She teaches me to trust God. Cohen is an amazingly loyal friend and still is to this day despite her illness. When my dad had his accident, she not only picked up my homework for me every day, but she would go to my brother's elementary school and pick up his homework. She left little surprises and notes in my car to encourage me when I got home from the hospital. She left Halloween candy for my little brother since she knew he would be at the hospital with my dad instead of trick-or-treating. She gives me a Care Bear every year on the anniversary of my dad's accident to let me know she's thinking of me. I could go on and on, but Cohen has taught me about love, compassion, generosity, and friendship. Cohen has invested in my life.
So I think we have a big responsibility. There are young people out there without a Connie or an Autumn or a Cohen who need someone to care about them. They need someone to invest in their lives and teach them about love and friendship and faith. With so many problems in the world today, our youth need to know that they are LOVED.
My husband has a huge responsibility as a youth director at our church and I hold myself to the same standard as I walk alongside him in this journey. With so much bullying and hate in our schools leading to depression, anxiety, and teen suicide, just a smile can make such a big difference. The youth need us. They need to know that they are important. They need to know that they are ENOUGH.
Who else is going to do this if we don't?
We need a revolution. I want to be the Connie, the Jeannie, the Autumn, the Nancy, and the Cohen to someone who needs it. I want to INVEST.
I had a poem published this week by The Montucky Review that I wrote about my dad. Check it out here: http://montuckyreview.blogspot.com/2014/12/autumn-rhythm.html