July 23 to 28 will mark World Youth Day, the eighth such international celebration since the Pope instituted it in the UN International Year of Youth in 1985. Some 350,000 young people from many countries will congregate in Toronto for a week of spiritual talks, events, and activities.
I remember a youth meeting that I attended in 1985 at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, and how much it influenced me. The speakers and the presentations were inspiring. I met a well-known writer, who gave an excellent talk. I found it wonderful to be with other young people who, like me, were questioning and searching strengthening their purpose and resolve for decades of service to others.
Such conferences can have a profound, even life-changing impact on a young person. But looking back, I think the quiet, simple kindnesses and example of some adults have left the greatest impact on my life.
I remember writing to a world-famous teacher in France when I was a young musician. To my surprise, he wrote back, and he took my aspirations as seriously as I did. I recall, too, the senior woman who was a published poet, who didn't know me well, but agreed to help me with an essay contest.
According to the Gospels, Jesus certainly helped and enjoyed young people, and he must have influenced them strongly. When a rich young man asked him how to have eternal life, Jesus didn't treat him like a kid but answered him honestly and directly, challenging him to go beyond the letter of the law (see Matt. 19:16-23).
When Jesus fed more than 5,000 people with five loaves and two small fish, the boy who volunteered the bread and fish must surely have noticed and been affected by it (see John 6:5-13). Consider Jairus's 12-year-old daughter, who was resurrected by Jesus (see Luke 8:41-56). The memory of that experience must have stayed with her during her entire life.
Perhaps the key vehicle for inspiring and guiding a young person is our own example. Though they wouldn't necessarily admit it, young people watch closely virtually every adult who comes into their lives. They watch the assumptions that are behind their speech and actions. They notice consistencies and inconsistencies of words and behavior. An honest, selfless life devoted to serving others doesn't go unnoticed by youth.
Also at the heart of helping or mentoring young people is seeing them for who they are as children of God. In supporting them we can see that all of the Godlike qualities they express the enthusiasm, energy, intelligence, courage indicate their true character as children of God. These qualities are to be loved, cherished, and encouraged in all that they do.
On the other hand, any ungodlike qualities, such as meanness, insensitivity, impatience, or disrespect are not part of their true nature. Seeing this gives us a strong basis for disciplining and guiding.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, took a great interest in young people. She spent time with them, corresponded with them, donated money to clothe them, and even provided for their education. She loved them because of their freedom and receptiveness. She wrote: "It is easier to incline the early thought rightly, than the biased mind. Children not mistaught, naturally love God; for they are pure-minded, affectionate, and generally brave" ("Miscellaneous Writings, 18831896," pg. 240).
Such events as World Youth Day deserve our support and prayer, as do all right efforts to guide the lives of young people. Whatever our station in life, helping a young person can be enriching, joy-giving, and inspiring.
At the present time your
plenty will supply what they
need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.
Then there will be an equality.
II Corinthians 8:14