Today’s post is written by Carlo Raponi who is Evangelism Outreach Director for Kawartha Youth Unlimited based in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, Canada; with a population of 80,000 or 115,000 depending on your sources.
This fall I attended a wedding as a +1 to a friend of mine. Weddings are always a great time. Even when it’s the wedding of someone you don’t know. Technically, its like crashing the wedding only there’s no threat of getting kicked out. You get to dress up, eat, drink and cut a little rug on the dance floor! I personally think that there should be open wedding-like parties you can attend on a weekly basis. I think the world would be a cheerier place for it.
At this particular wedding I was expecting to be the mystery guest. I didn’t know the bride or groom, I didn’t grow up in the area nor do I have relatives that live here. This was going to be my night to sit back, relax, eat some hors d’oeuvres and be, for the most part, anonymous. However that wasn’t the case.
Upon arriving at the reception a young man came up to me with an excited and surprised look on his face. “Carlo, wow, do you remember me?!” he asked as he cornered me at the coat check. In scenarios such as these your mind does one of three things. Either it searches it’s database for every possible instance where you might know this person, or it looks and listens for clues that could give insight into who this person is, or it looks for the best, and most vague, manner of saying hi that gives the air that you recognize the individual while seeming both genuine and credible. While I began with number three, suddenly number one kicked in and in a flash I recognized the now grown up individual that stood before me.
He called his friends over to introduce me. “Hey, this is Carlo. We used to skate together all the time at the skate park…man, you’ve helped me out with so many things!…” He went on to tell of how we would skateboard around and then just talk. While I remembered it all, I stood bewildered that those times we spent meant that much to him.
Later that evening the brother of the groom approached me. “Hi, do you remember me?” he asked. Ok, this time I really had to call upon brain function number three. He filled in the gaps for me telling me that he and I had a conversation one day that changed the course of his youth; that the words I spoke to him while we hung out in the streets of Peterborough significantly impacted his life and that he wanted to thank me.
I spent the rest of the night in amazing conversations with these two young men; and when I got home I was quick to share this story with a friend of mine who also volunteers at The Bridge Youth Center. After telling him about how stunned I was at the words of these two boys and how incredible it was that my words had has such impact, my friend commented saying, “…wow, I wish my night was that great. Instead I all I did was hang out with a bunch of rowdy kids at the youth center…” It was here that I turned to correct him. He missed the point. All that time I put in skateboarding or hanging out downtown was time setting the stage for those poignant conversations. All that time spent was time relationship building, time leading up to the moment at which something clicked inside of them.
People are not machines, they take time to change and grow. The work we do at The Bridge Youth Center is not just about playing pool or hanging out at the canteen. It’s time invested into actual lives that are actually transformed by Christ through the relationships established. That night was both an eye opener for this volunteer and a reaffirmation of the value in what Youth Unlimited does through it’s staff and volunteers. May these kinds of stories never cease.