One night a week, I hang out with middle schoolers (who are so super awesome). It doesn't seem like much on a calendar, but it's a lot on my heart. See, these kids draw upon a part of me I'm not even sure existed a year ago. Well, perhaps it did. But I got pretty great at hiding it.
For years, I've mentored high school students and newly minted college graduates. I have loved every part of walking the growing-into-an-adult journey with some incredible young women. And for the most part, I thought I was pretty vulnerable. Turns out, not so much.
Here's what I learned from a bunch of 13 year olds: it's easy to be vulnerable when you've got your life together. But what happens when it falls apart?
Last week, I emailed our youth leaders with an update. I shared the hard parts of the last year (yep - last blog post was June of 2015. #consistencyforthewin). I got real about what's going on. And I told them flat out: I will no longer be volunteering with youth group. I thought my reasoning was pretty stellar. "I need to simplify my life. I need to spend more time at home and less at work. I need to shave down the peripheral parts of life to focus on what matters." Really. Really?
Then I went to youth group...what I assumed would likely be one of the last few before the end of the school year and my time with the crew. I pulled up, closed my door, and made it about 20 feet before I heard "Parker Parker Parker Parker." Before I could prepare myself for a direct hit, 10 girls had me in a dog pile - not a single one of them having any idea what I'd shared with our leaders hours earlier. In that moment, I got it: love doesn't mean having it together. Quite the opposite, love means moving entirely outside of ourselves and into unwavering connection with and service of another. It requires nothing but a heartbeat....even if we have nothing physically or emotionally to give.
Vulnerability. When everything feels like it's falling apart. It's so raw. It's so real. And it is so healing.
At the end of that night, I stood in a gravel parking lot with the same people I'd emailed just that morning (oh - and one complete, and so patient, stranger-now-friend). In that moment, I felt more grounded and whole than I have in months - simply because I got honest on a level I didn't know was there. Here's what I told our team: I have lost time management and prioritization. I have said yes to things I cannot maintain. I believe that if I drop one thing, every other single thing I am holding is going to come crashing down. I feel responsible for people and things that are not my responsibility. 100%, I'm holding onto more than I can sustain, and my physical health shows it. I'm afraid to walk life with these kids, because - truthfully - I feel like I'm failing. At everything.
And then I said it concisely (shocking!): I've got nothing together, but I love these kids.
These girls. They could care less if I won or lost my next client pitch. They don't care if my start-up succeeds or fails. They don't know if my health is on point or off kilter unless I tell them. They aren't moved by the uncertainty of life's toughest questions. They don't care about the periphery. Sometimes all we need is some chocolate and a chat. Being right here - right now - that's enough for them.
It's enough for all of us.
(p.s. can't wait for 2016-2017 youth).