I love hanging out with teenagers. You may think I’m crazy, but you’ve got to know the kind of kids I’m hanging with.
Youth groups from all over America have traveled to Orlando to participate in a National Fine Arts Festival and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing their amazing talents. There are ten thousand kids here who are stepping out of their comfort zones, using their gifts and abilities and encouraging each other to do the same. During a time when so many teens in our society are defeated and discouraged, it has been rather refreshing to see so many of them excited and enthusiastic.
But this isn’t a utopia. I’m sure that when these kids separate from each other they will be back to stressing and striving, but without a doubt, this week has strengthened their character.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
We become like the people we hang around and although this powerful truth is sometimes quite devastating to a person’s character, it is also one of the greatest keys to building confidence.
One of my favorite parts of being here is walking through the halls of the convention center where the various artists are warming up for their turn on stage. It is an amazing comparison to the crowded streets of Downtown Disney where we spent some time last night. Both places offer entertainment with the pause in your walk but the atmosphere in the convention halls is very different then the beautiful, waterfront streets where the “magic happens.” Don’t get me wrong; Disney also offers good, healthy fun. But the dream that is inspired there is really Walt’s, more than his patrons. At this National Fine Arts Festival, the kids are building their own dreams.
I feel so blessed that two of my own kids are here having the flames in their hearts fanned by the approval and inspiration of their peers as well as the critiques of their judges. Of course I wish their performances were rated as perfection, but I know that the judgment and advice given them will help them continue to develop their gifts because they are witnessing success and failure all around them.
They know that they are not alone.
It’s often said, “When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly.” For the performers receiving
their rating, the sparks may be tears of disappointment, but that’s part of the character-building. Tears make their experience real and lasting because they refine the dream.
The desire to do better is only proof of the value of that dream to that person.
I am impressed with the courage these kids have to stand before their peers and offer their hearts. I know many grown men and women who lack the confidence to share their talent around a campfire at night, yet these kids, during their most sensitive years, step out in front of each other and risk it all. And their courage becomes confidence wether they rate “superior” or not because there is a camaraderie being built amongst them as they cheer each other on and they are learning that they have something to offer this world and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.
Witnessing others achieve a dream creates confidence that you can too.
Our society is full of people (myself included) with hurts, hang-ups and habits that have destroyed the dreams within us. Perhaps there’s something we all could learn from hanging out with teens who still believe they can do anything.
If you, or someone you love, is feeling defeated or discouraged, I encourage you to reconnect with your dreams by practicing the gifts and talents inside of you and then risking your heart by sharing it with someone who just might be encouraged by it.