Some reasons I love teenagers, or It’s the small and simple things

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When I was Young Women President in my ward in California, two of the Laurels did a Personal Progress project related to the Young Women Motto: Stand for Truth and Righteousness. I worked with them on their project.

We spent weeks planning a special Mutual activity. We simulated a courtroom, and one of these Laurels played a hilarious lawyer who was “accusing” the young women of standing for truth and righteousness. For the weeks leading up to the activity, we talked to their parents and others to discover good things the girls were doing. It was a lot of fun, and I think it was meaningful for the young women to have the positive things they were doing noticed.

I was grateful to hear that my girls’ Young Women leaders did something similar this year at camp. Every year, the girls do a faith walk at night. Leaders stand at different stations along the walk, with the intent to teach principles about faith, standards, testimony, and so forth. This year, the theme for the faith walk was the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Some leaders along the dark trail were there to represent the kinds of things that could take away from the young women putting oil in their lamps. But other leaders would whisper to the girls the little things that they had observed them doing at camp — serving another girl, reading their scriptures, helping clean up after dinner — and they would give the girls a little tea light to help light their way along their path.

It’s way too easy for teens to get a bad rap. When I was a teen, I felt that negative energy from adults around me, even those I loved dearly. When I was a young mom, I had parents warn me about “those teenage years.” And you know what? I’m the mom of three teens and I love it! And I love them. Youth have so much to give, and are doing so much good. I firmly believe the more we believe in them, the more we invite the good in them to shine.

And so today, I just wanted to share some of the great things I’m seeing teens around me do, or things I’ve read about teens doing. The purpose of this list is not to overwhelm anyone, but, rather, to highlight how significant small and simple things really are.

  • Reading scriptures every day
  • Willingly, deliberately sharing what they are learning in scriptures with friends and family
  • Lovingly caring for younger siblings
  • Helping a friend care for siblings
  • Respecting and enjoying family time (Family Home Evening, family vacations, family meals)
  • Bringing balloons or treats to a sick friend
  • Writing to missionary friends
  • Listening to a friend in need. Listening to a friend not in need. Just listening!
  • Being willing to let others listen by humbly sharing feelings (“I’m sad/scared/overwhelmed/confused/frustrated/lonely”)
  • Listening to or playing with a young child.
  • Learning to care for children, babysitting.
  • Talking excitedly about being a mother or father someday.
  • Respecting parents, even when disagreeing (and yet being willing to also speak up in family councils rather than pretending to feel something they don’t)
  • Being willing to honor parents while not being afraid to make goals for future family life that can improve generational patterns
  • Serving on committees at school to help kids in need
  • Serving on city committees to plan and execute community service projects
  • Serving in church callings
  • Giving talks at church
  • Reading
  • Singing
  • Smiling
  • Laughing
  • Taking a breather when frustrated
  • Studying, learning new things
  • Making a homemade meal, snack, or treat (and sometimes sharing it with others)
  • Doorbell ditching a friend
  • Sending daily uplifting thoughts through texts
  • Doing homework
  • Saying yes to a simple request for help from a sibling or parent even when you want to say no
  • Saying no to something when it’s clear that is the right answer, even if people might be critical or confused
  • Posting positive things about others (anonymously or otherwise) on social media
  • Attending Seminary
  • Exercising
  • Building a new skill or nurturing a seasoned talent
  • Enjoying nature
  • Saying “I’m sorry”
  • Using the Notes feature on a cell phone to write inspiration down the minute it comes
  • Putting a cell phone away to make space for inspiration to come, or to build connection with others
  • Using fun nicknames for friends and family — a simple way to show love and connection
  • Participating in a community service effort to teach seniors how to use technology so they can connect with their families and feel more comfortable in this digital age (something the nonprofit I work for is helping with)
  • Making time for wholesome fun
  • Encouraging each other on goals
  • Learning self-awareness and discipline through simple things like not procrastinating a two-minute chore
  • Reading the Book of Mormon regularly
  • Reading the Book of Mormon as a group (one group of priests set a shared goal to read 70 pages a week in mission-prep mode; another ward’s youth group had a Book of Mormon marathon)
  • Making deliberate choices to respond to the prophets’ invitation to improve Sabbath observance, even in small ways (while respecting others’ different personal choices!)
  • Doing family history work and indexing
  • Going to church even when parents don’t
  • Going to the temple to do baptisms, alone and with friends
  • Reading and studying about the temple to prepare for the endowment
  • Choosing modest clothing (p.s. I think modesty is often misunderstood as only about covering your physical body, when it’s a simple, powerful way to prepare for the temple and wearing the temple garment. To me, the garment is a symbol of being covered by Christ’s Atonement, a way to literally stand each day in a holy place. Modesty for me is a reminder of the spiritual truths of the gospel and grace that center on the Savior.)
  • Sharing excitement about missionary service
  • Getting up early for mission prep classes or seminary
  • Trusting personal revelation with regard to a mission (I’m thinking specifically of young women who trust that they really do have a choice about a mission)
  • Holding unapologetically to standards, while still loving those with different standards
  • Not being afraid to talk honestly with each other about standards, and recognizing that even among those with high standards, individuals will make different choices (e.g., about movies, books, etc.) = respecting agency
  • Learning how to really trust God and listen to His answers — and especially to believe in His love

The list could go on….

I know none of us should do what we do to get attention or praise. But I will say it again: I believe so strongly in the power of youth, and I believe they need to see and hear others celebrate the good in them.

(Be sure to celebrate the good in yourself, too!)

What small and simple things do you notice make a difference in your life? What small and simple things are your friends (or the teens around you) doing?

 

 

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Michelle hates writing bios, adores her three teenagers, enjoys writing and talking about the gospel, and loves that RubyGirl has been created. She looks forward to watching it unfold, and especially looks forward to learning from youth and young adults.

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