Wednesday (April 19, 2023) 12pm
Truth Comes First: Reflecting On The Language of Post-Pandemic Pre-Teens
There’s always so much to be grateful for on the path of humility to enlightenment. Around every corner and beneath every rock there is a shining light of truth waiting to be discovered. I uncovered some personal truths this Winter that profoundly affected me and led me to dedicate my own time to our beautiful pre-teens at Unity. Reflecting over the past 10 years of working in the office and Unity of Boulder, in retrospect, I recognize the milestones along the way that have led me to this turning point.
Since 2017, I have been harboring a secret wish to work with our Uniteens, exploring and brainstorming curriculum for them in hope I would gain the spiritual courage it would take to be a part of their lives. I was finally drawn–divinely guided–to speak up and say that I am personally ready to fill the space of working with our Unity pre-teens (middle schoolers) in December of 2023. Spirit’s calling overcame me during the Holidays when I reached out to our Spiritual Leader, Syntysche Groverland, at a time when our Youth Department was left with a post-pandemic gaping hole where our Uniteens once thrived. As many of you know, over the past year we have been making an effort and taking steps to re-create a loving, safe space for our youth following the isolation and feelings of uncertainty that the pandemic left in its wake.
|From behind the veil of the COVID Pandemic our youth have emerged with new challenges. Their cloistered experience in ZOOM Classrooms and online forums has created social anxieties with in-person experiences that we once took for granted. Self confidence needs to be rebuilt as they learn to deal with challenges with one another again, face-to-face.
Being together again may hold hesitation, doubt, mistrust and wavering edges for our pre-teens as they gather in person once again. Teacher/student conflicts, interpersonal boundary challenges , how to respond to blatant racism, losing friends we were once close with before the pandemic and the group dynamic of a full classroom have now come to the forefront of our spiritual discussion on Sundays. It is a blessing that our youth have a neutral space to vent their concerns, support one another and validate their experience with others that are feeling the spiritual effects of these challenges.
Because of my own middle school experience, I felt I could draw upon my own challenges in surviving those years to serve our Uniteens whole-heartedly and open. After relocating to a new middle school halfway through my pre-teen experience, I was moved from a thriving, confidence building environment with solid childhood friendships into a class filled with utter strangers 3000 miles away–a stewpot of already established friendships, bullying and kids far advanced in their use of social cliques and development than me. As a newcomer, I became subject to all the downsides of middle school and was forced to rely upon a sense of ‘centering in self’ and a healthy sense of humor to get me through. In facilitating our Uniteens at Unity I was entering the pre-teen realm expecting to confront these kinds of issues head on. To my surprise our middle schoolers are far more introspective and socio-politically aware than my own pre-cell phone, techno generation of yesterday. There seems to be an underlying spirituality being nurtured by raising our children to have socio-political sensitivity to one another and their world. They have developed a broad tolerance of differences in others—an appreciation for diversity–resulting in more compassionate children.
|The beauty of spirituality lies in the ability to apply lessons learned from seemingly totally unrelated experiences to one another for a higher perspective and deeper understanding of how we can navigate life’s difficulties and celebrate the blessings.
I am intrigued by the similarities between the isolation that occurs from being cut off from one another during a Pandemic and the alienation that can occur from being a stranger in a strange land full of people with their own way of moving through life. A Pandemic may cause us to look inward more for our own voice, because that’s the only voice we have been spending time with. Bullying isolates as well, causing us to retreat inward as a protective measure.
My first week with the Uniteens in February 2023, was eye-opening. In being granted the privilege of gathering with these amazing children, I was overwhelmed by their desire to identify and express what was really on their minds. Being childless, my exposure to young people was minimal. They were fearless and took over our group discussion about spirituality immediately, to my delight–spoke their soul truths, articulately and with clarity. Their curiosity piqued with questions such as “You mean Jesus was a real man?” to statistics comparing school shootings to Desert Storm war casualties, and “Do we have to believe in God to be here at Unity?” When asked what they felt was the most spiritually important trait they could have in a friend they consistently answered “trust in one another” and when asked about what they considered to be a part of spirituality “the paranormal nature of God” was the group consensus, hands down. I feel honored to be present with them, and their profound questions and perspectives. I am intrigued by how their questions and comments reveal who they are and where they are finding themselves on the spiritual path. I am learning to listen and listen closely in a new language–the language of our post-pandemic pre-teens.
In the weeks that followed, we have explored our changing feelings and engaged in a stimulating discussion about the spiritual aspects of our lives using art therapy techniques, the First Nations’ Medicine Wheel and spiritual journaling as a way of ‘checking in’ with one another. Sometimes, we just play card games, jenga, plant seeds for the Unity Garden and just get to know one another, describing what new challenges the week has brought. I hope to continue our journey together throughout the summer by introducing the concept of mindfulness through nature, journaling and the discovery of our hidden powers of goodness in relation to the interconnectedness of all things. We’ll strive to bridge the gap in elapsed time that the pandemic brought us.
|In the aftermath of COVID we can find solutions to our Pre-Pandemic problems out of the need to emerge, thrive and survive again, this time with our post-pandemic awareness. As we all reconnect with the outside world, other’s thoughts, energies and our own level of comfort with the Self again, the interrupted pre-pandemic interactions and ways of responding to life have become our markers for spiritual growth.
These markers are especially evident in our children who have gained so much more wisdom about personal space, aloneness and finding their own voices. Like ourselves, when thrown into the stewpot ahead of their time, some may falter and some may come into their own. I intend to be there for both.
I look forward to gaining new wisdom from the pre-teens of this post-pandemic world. I whisper a prayer each night that Spirit will guide my way and my words to take healing form for the children. I pray that they would be protected in this formative stage in their spiritual development as they seek out and express their own Truth and that those children with spiritual need and curiosity would be led to our Unity Youth Ministry. We are building slowly. They are showing up for one another. They are ascending out of their Pandemic Bomb Shelters–the cocoons–where they have gained a perspective to be gifted them as they grow on their spiritual path. I am honored to be there for them through their awakening process. Will you join me?