Colgate on the Curtains

 At summer camp two weeks ago, I was noticing an ample supply of handsoap in the cabin bathroom. We were instructed to wash our hands often and to instruct our campers to do the same. The stomach flu was going around and we needed to take every precaution. With visions of seeing myself as Kate Winslet in a hazmat suit from the movie Contagion, I washed my hands often. My hand sanitizer was also easily accessible via an awesome carabiner on my backpack. After washing my hands, I noticed that there were no hand towels. I could whip an extra towel out of my over-stuffed blue suitcase to leave by the sink for everyone to use. Or not! The idea of sharing a hand towel with 9 girls seemed counter-productive. So, like most of the kids I dried my hands on my clothing instead! But then came bedtime tooth brushing. What to do for that last little bit of water and toothpaste that lurks on your face just after brushing? For me, I used my wash cloth which was nicely hidden in my suitcase for my personal use. Hiding my towels was a direct result of figuring out that a middle schooler had been using my bath towel after showering when I wasn't in the cabin.  Ummm why is my towel wet? 

Camp day three. I began noticing our cabin curtains seemed really well handled. As in scrunched at the just right height of a middle school girl drying her hands. The curtains seemed more and more wrinkled and dirty with each passing day. As one of the girls finished her lengthy bedtime beatification routine, I watched her wipe the toothpaste from her mouth off onto the curtain. She looked at me with a guilty smile and said, "everyone has been doing that all week." Yup, there is our toothpaste covered window curtain!  What does Colgate on the curtains teach this woman in youth ministry? A simple, but overlooked essential to youth ministry. To observe my students needs, and do my best to meet them.  

      In this case, bringing an extra roll of paper towels or disposable hand towels that Kleenex now manufactures would meet a need and save those poor curtains. More often than not, the needs of our students are not so simple. A lot of them need parents who are more patient, less angry. Or families that fight to stay married, not divorce. Many need healing from huge amounts of unspeakable brokenness and hurt in their lives. Without events on the youth ministry calendar like summer camp, or without space on my own calendar for spending time with students, I miss seeing the needs. Too distracted running programs or games to see the needs in front of my face. It's those times away from it all, away from cell phones and Facebook that allow us as youth workers the beautiful privilege of getting a real look into the lives of our students and allowing God the opportunity to help us figure out how to meet their needs. It might be the little things...like hand towels. Or a 12 year old girl sharing that her family has no money to buy her shoes. Take time to look for the Colgate (it's on the curtains).


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