Earlier this year Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford were the faces of an evangelistic ad campaign called, “I Am Second,” where they get their role in community partially right putting God first and themselves second. Unfortunately, they only needed to look farther back in football history at the memoirs of Gale Sayers, where he penned the idea of “I am third” [God first, Others second and myself third]. No one can fault McCoy or Bradford for their mistake as they are still adolescents by today’s standards (adolescence currently extends into the mid 20’s now).
Recently, I came across this shirt in the section targeted for 8-10 year old boys and was bitterly disappointed at Nike’s marketing. While it does cause one to laugh, what is disheartening is that this shirt epitomizes much of what has gone wrong with the systems what were originally created to protect and enrich our young people. When inculcating an identity into today’s young people it is important that those of us who are adults reinforce that God comes first, Others come second and self comes third. This is the foundation of a healthy identity that will launch an adolescent successfully into adulthood. It isn’t until an individual realizes that “I need others” and “Others need me” that they con finally enter into adulthood in a healthy and productive fashion. Scholars call this “Interdependence.”
Interdependence is a vital exchange of dependence that: 1. Keeps one humble to the point that they recognize their need for others and 2. Keeps one serving others with their gifts as they realize they are needed by others.
Adults can help adolescents mature through helping them realize their need for others. Selfishness seems to be a inalienable right of adolescence. However, this does not need to be the norm. Adults can help teens see their need for others through healthy, intergenerational community experiences. Hearing the stories of other generations CONNECTS students to these segments of the population. Serving alongside others helps them realize others giftedness and value. Simply BEING with others helps teens see that others actually have something that is of worth. It is impossible to develop this need in teens if they are not spending TIME with people of other generations.
When a teen develops this NEED for others, then their IDENTITY begins to absorb the larger community into it.
2. Adults also need to help teens understand that others are depend on them as well. Teens are an indispensable part of the broader community. When we develop systems that sends them into the deep corners of the culture out of our sight, then we begin to believe that we don’t need them. Teens bring vitality, hope, and future to our community that is a sobering reminder of who we are and what we are about as a community. Teens remind us WHY we gather together. Why we work? Why the environment is important? For without the children of our world, what we do is simply in vain. When adults forget their need for teens, they simply regress into adolescence again. (Just look at the self-indulgent lifestyles of the baby boomers of the 1980s for a quick reminder)
Adults simply need to begin to INVEST THEIR LIVES into the lives of teens they know in order to remind themselves of their need for teens. Volunteering with the high school teams, getting to know the teens names in the neighborhood, being around teens (in non creeper ways), are ways that you can begin to invest in the lives of teens. So just open your eyes to those teens that are in your world. Say “Hi” and introduce yourself. I know it is scary and intimidating, but give it a try.