I got all nostalgic while I was wrapping Christmas presents today, and I started thinking about the women of slightly-younger-than-my-mother's generation who were my youth leaders at church during my tween and teenage years. My friends and I were essentially nice people, but it cannot have always been a pleasant task for these women to plan, prepare, and participate in activities and lessons with us a couple of times a week.
At the time, as teenagers, it seemed almost to be our right to have these women there, spending time with us and giving of their talents and resources. I mean, of course. Right? Ah, teenagers.
It's only in recent years (as I've become a leader myself at church) that I've realized what a sacrifice it must have been for them. I'm sure that sometimes it was a joy to hang out with half a dozen 14- and 15-year-old girls on Sundays and Wednesday afternoons. I'm sure that other times, these women would rather have clawed their eyes out (or, even better - spent a quiet night at home by themselves) (or, more realistically - taken care of their own children's demands).
And of course, even though, as I said, we girls were fundamentally nice people, we had our inside jokes about our leaders sometimes. There was this one leader who used to speak to us and ask us about our lives while holding onto our arm and looking right in our face. It was intense. She was re-doing her living room in black and white (or jungle?) decor and she covered a curtain rod in zebra-print band-aids to complete the look. She once used novocaine from the place she worked to numb an annoying mole on her leg and then cut it off herself with a knife. We girls did not understand these things. We giggled and just chalked it up to Sister So-and-so being Sister So-and-so. Now, I realize that Sister So-and-so was seriously BADA**. Also: she was genuinely interested in our lives (the arm-holding and eye-contact-making).
And that's what really gets me: these women seem to have actually cared about us girls as human beings. And they continue to put on a good show of it! I see many of them whenever I go visit my family in Oregon and it's always fun to say hello and see their familiar faces. As a teenager, it was just "oh, there's Sister So-and-so who teaches me at church on Sundays and then gives me rides during the week to activities that she plans, sometimes at her own house, and shares her wisdom and experiences with home and career with me." Now, as an adult, it's the same words, except with me choking up at the thought of it all.