I was asked to speak to a group of teens. It was my first time doing that at this place. Sure, I had spoken to teens before. But that was about God to the youth at church. I think that’s easier. Maybe because it’s where they want to be. But this was different.
I was going to talk about my children’s books and about self-esteem. I was excited, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to stay focused. Let’s be honest. Teens don’t always seem interested. At least that’s what we think.
I was in a hurry. Right before heading out the door, my five year old daughter handed me a book. It was a book I never read. I didn’t even realized we still had it. The title of it was, “For the Children’s Sake.” That title was exactly what I needed to keep me focused.
When I arrived, there was no platform. There was no microphone. There were approximately 20 to 30 teenagers sitting at round tables. Some were louder than others. The oldest one (let’s call him Dwayne) I think was about 16. He stood out to me. He was a little slouched in his seat. He seemed somewhat uninterested. Dwayne had a hoodie on and earphones in his ears. One of the leaders had to call his name out a couple of times.
Dwayne ended up winning one of my books. I asked if it was anyone’s birthday, and he said it was his younger sister’s birthday. I learned quickly that the last thing you want to do is give out a free book to a teen in a group before starting your speech. So. I asked for it and told him I would sign it and give it to him at the end of the class.
I tried my best to keep them interested. One kid started to tell me his dream out of nowhere. Coincidentally, it went with what I needed to say, and I interpreted it for him. It was funny. Dwayne ended up pretty impressed with the interpretation and how it backed up my speech. And honestly, I was blown away myself, but I didn’t tell them that.
When I was done with my 30 minute speech which at some point felt like it would last forever, I gave the book back to Dwayne. I asked how his sister’s name was spelled. And I dedicated it to her. But then something happened. Dwayne asked me to dedicate it to him, too.
It really caught me by surprise. I Love Me: Building Self-Esteem and Happy Hearts was my second children’s book. It was illustrated by my 8 year old daughter and me. I didn’t think that he would be interested in it. Elementary children? Yes. Middle school children? Yes. But Dwayne? Nope. It’s not what I expected.
And then I realized something. Inside Dwayne was a heart that needed to be encouraged. He seemed cool on the outside, but he was a little boy on the inside looking for attention. And that day he got it. When I asked him about his dream, his response changed from “I think so” to “yes.” I told him it was possible. And I told him he would succeed.
I had volunteered my time. Sure I didn’t get paid. Sure I felt challenged and uncomfortable at times. Teens have that effect on us at times. I have two of my own. They’re great children, but they sure can make you feel like you’re not a part of their world sometimes.
But underneath those faces, there were hungry hearts. I saw it in their eyes. I saw it in their expressions. I saw it in Dwayne. That day was a special day. And there was a lesson in it for me. The lesson had to do with my why.
My focus wasn’t on what I was getting. My focus wasn’t on sales. I didn’t have any that day. My focus was the answer to my why. And the answer to why I was doing what I was doing was for the Children’s Sake. They are our future. And that made it all worth it.
If you ever feel like quitting, just think about the reason why you started doing what you’re doing. And let that be your fuel. If it’s for one, it’s worth it. There are plenty of Dwayne’s out there that need us to keep moving forward.