Rule # 3 on my Latin "Rules and Policies" sheet (3 after Being Respectful and Coming to Class Alert and Sober): "Leave your bigotry at the door. Feel free not to retrieve it when you live. There are plenty of mean people out there in the world, but in this class we will contrive to be kind to each other. That includes blacks, whites, browns, yellows, gays, straights, bi's, confuseds, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, animists, atheists, Wiccans, southerners, northerners, easterners, westerners, talls, shorts, fats, skinnies, preps, socials, gothics...basically everybody except Duke fans."
Saturday night, I went to a lock-in at my friend's church (a term which I use since it's one people will recognize, since they call it Meeting). We watched a movie about energy conservation and green power, and then hung out and played Settlers of Catan and did random stuff for the rest of the evening.
We had these things called FAPs (Friendly Adult Presences) who hung out and supervised us and whatnot. Two of them left around midnight and it was just the 6 of us and the youth leader for another hour until someone else showed up so the youth leader could get some sleep.
This other person, according to what I heard in the morning, stayed with us for most of the night while we slept. A woman who I think was his wife came at around 5 to open up the building and cook us (and her, and a few other people) breakfast.
How awesome is that? All of these people sacrificing so much of their time (and sleep) just for a bunch of teenagers spending the night in a little room in the basement.
I felt so loved.
After breakfast, we washed the dishes and then went to the first 15 minutes of Meeting (the non-adults always leave at that point), which entailed us sitting on benches in a room full of other people sitting on benches in total silence.
It was an incredibly powerful experience: all of us, sitting in a room together, yet being totally ourselves, and just ourselves. Not talking to each other or anything. Just...being. I don't know if I've ever been inside such a populated room that is simultaneously so absent of sound.
It was amazing.
I often say that I think religion should be a completely personal experience, and therefore we should all just worship from home. This began as an attempt at an argument for getting out of going to church (which failed), but then I came to realize that I actually believed it but for the fact that a lot of people turn to religion for a sense of community as well as spiritual fulfillment.
This matched up my views and the need for community. The actual spiritual bit was theology and liturgy-free, but there's still lots of social things both just-for-fun and to make the world a better place.
After we went back downstairs to listen to and talk with a representative of their environmental concerns committee (you read that correctly. They have a committee in their church for that). We discussed ways to cut back on energy consumption both in our personal lives and in society as a whole, and I realized: these people meant business. It wasn't just a "yeah, we should save the Earth. Go green and stuff. Yay." They were serious. I was/am awe-struck.
When we first sat down, the man from the ECC told us that he thought of the high school youth group as a group, and was genuinely interested in getting to know each of us/them personally. Every time he asked us a question, I felt that he really did want to know the answer, and had thought about the question beforehand.
Which brings me to the final major thing I was surprised-in-a-good-way about: all of the adults I interacted with over the course of the lock-in acted with phenomenal respect towards us young people.
How much better could a weekend get than spending it with my best friend and other awesome people discussing things that matter, yet having fun at the same time, in such a caring environment?