“When the power of love is stronger than the love of power, the world will know peace.”
This is one of my favorite quotes. To me, it is one of the most profound statements ever made. All people, both big and small, are looking for love. You see it all around you, songwriters write songs about it, authors write books about it and Hollywood turns out movie after movie on this subject. It is one thing you can’t fake.
Teenagers automatically have protective, emotional defenses around them. They push as hard as they can to see if the love you claim to have for them is true. “Will you still love me if I’m rude?” ” Will you still love me if I look like this?” You can’t fool them with lip service. As adults, we tend not to question love when it comes our way. I am not talking about physical love, but something deeper, something that resides at the core of your being; love that is unconditional, love that can’t be removed or chased away.
The definition of the kind of love I am talking about comes from the Bible. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV) This is the kind of love I strive to give to the youth of Mariposa. This is the type of love I strive to show at all times in my dealings with the youth, both at Ethos and other places where I come into contact with kids.
All the volunteers at Ethos have this type of unconditional, passionate love for youth, and the kids who come to Ethos know that they are loved here. They know that at any given time, when they are dealing with difficult issues in their lives, they will have someone to talk to, someone who will listen. Someone that will not judge them for the choices they’ve made, but will try to help them make wiser choices in the future. Not because we are the adults and know what is best, but because we have lived our own lives, and love the young person enough to be actively involved in his or her life.
I remember being a teenager. I remember how it felt and all the confusing emotions I had. You are on the cusp of becoming an adult, but you are still a child. My goal is to try to help them get through that stage of life with fewer scars than I have. I hope that under the guidance of caring and actively involved adults, they can become more than just “productive members of society”, that the love they learn through the examples of a group of people from all different walks and beliefs will impact them and encourage them to grow into the kind of person they are meant to be.
It is true that it takes a community to raise a child, and Ethos is that kind of community where we can impart a “spirit of love” as a legacy to our children. What better legacy do we have to pass on than that?
I dig Val’s perspective on a community founded on love. One of the points in the orientation and training class that is required for adults who want to be a part of the Ethos team in serving and working with young people is, “Seek to understand, not condemn or judge”. The great thing about this nugget of wisdom is that it does not stop with young people. It is applicable across the generational divide. It requires the person, in this case the adult, to be drawn into a relationship with the other, the young adult (who possibly has many facial piercings, or tattoos, etc.). In order to understand someone, you must establish a relationship. In doing so, you begin to understand their intentions, their needs, their wants, their baggage, you get to know their heart, thereby reducing condemnation based on misunderstanding.
The illustration of Jesus drawing a line in the dirt and demanding the person without sin to throw the first stone haunts me as I reflect on the many times I have judged others. All too often judgments and assumptions are made that do not allow for any sense of relational depth which in turn ends up corroding community. One of my favorite quotes by
Dietrich Bonheoffer that is painted on a wall at the Ethos Center states, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community”.
Jesus had a heart for all people. He was criticized for accepting, loving, and hanging out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, engaging with Romans, pharisees, etc. The ethos of our young people is one of profound acceptance and love. We asked a few young people how they felt about the Ethos Center. I was stoked to read what they wrote. The following are a few of their comments.
Meet a few of the young people of Mariposa
“I feel that Ethos is definitely one of the greater aspects of this town. It’s a great place to chill out and get away from the troubles of your day. Not to mention the volunteers are a hoot, always making you laugh. The positive environment really brightens the youth society. It’s truly special.” -Nikia
“Well, I think Ethos is awesome, it sends a tickle straight to my heart. They don’t criticize other people, and their doors are always open to everyone. I really like Ethos.” -Tre
“I like to come and see people, and play games. I enjoy the fact that people have a place where they are always welcome.” -Jake
“Ethos – I look at it as a safe haven, a place where youth can be safe, while knowing that they can be themselves without being persecuted, or harassed by the others around them.” – James
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