The summer before 9th grade, I was sitting in the Fellowship Hall of the First Baptist Church of Russellville cutting out stars or boats or some such thing out of lamination getting ready for Vacation Bible School. If you’ve ever attended a Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The new girl walked in and sat down beside me. She asked if I needed help. I handed her a pair of scissors and a page of orange anchors, “Cut these out.” That’s how Meredith and I became friends.
We shared a locker at Gardner Junior High that year and eventually went on to be roommates in college. Now, more years later than I care to admit, we are both married moms, working and trying to keep our busy lives running as smoothly as possible. We don’t talk enough or see each other enough. So when she decided to put together a reunion for the church youth group which fostered our friendship, I decided to take my family.
It’s no secret I have mixed feelings about my time in the church youth group. There were moments of great fun and I made wonderful, lifelong friends. I have since departed from some of the theology I was taught during that time, though my faith is strong. It took me a long time to realize I could reject some of the teaching without rejecting the people who taught it to me. The reunion reminded me again what good-hearted people had helped bring me up.
It was wild catching up with old friends. I hadn’t seen some in probably 15 years. Or more. I still talk to a handful, and a few follow the MisAdventures of Monkey Boy on Facebook. Along with the “youth,” most of whom brought their own kids with them, were several of the parents who had been youth trip chaperones and part of the “mom network” of spies who kept us honest enough.
I’m so glad Meredith’s parents opened their home to us, like they had so many times before. I realized (again) how lucky I had been. Beyond just my parents who loved me and looked out for me, there was a significant group of adults doing the same for all of us. They opened their homes, so we had safe places to go. They opened their hearts, so we had someone loving to talk to, when we couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to our parents. They totally ratted us out to our parents when we did something wrong. They kept us from real trouble. They were human and flawed, and they made mistakes.
But if nothing else, they did one critical thing right: they understood that one day we would all likely be married with kids of our own. So they made an investment of themselves in us, not just for our own sakes, but for the benefit of our children.
For that, I am grateful. For that, I owe Monkey Boy, his friends, and all their future kids.