But teenagers are scary

I’m amazed at the number of people I meet (including some training for ministry) who are at best nervous of teenagers but often actually scared of them. For a youth worker it’s strange that teenagers are viewed by some as a dangerous mutant alien species, but the reality is, that’s often how they are seen. Very sad!
There have been quite a few training situations where I’ve abandoned the lesson plan and we’ve instead had to look at, How to like teenagers? How to look beyond what teenagers look like to who they are?
A true story:
The first night of a national youth camp is always interesting. No one knows anyone and teenagers I admit can look kind of big and scary when they first arrive. At the first meal of one such event I noticed that there was no-one sitting with one of the teens. He was quite a big guy with punked up hair and a good collection of leather, studs and attitude. I headed, with some trepedation I admit, for his table.
Me: Mind if I sit here?
Him: Grunt (I took it to be a positive kind of a grunt)
Me: Hey your hair looks cool! Why do you wear it like that?
Him: I like Punk!
Me: oh (not knowing anything about punk but frantically trying to think of at least one band), what sort of bands (band pops into head) The Dead Kennedy’s?
Him (much more animated) yeah they’re great and I also really love ………
(I learnt a lot about punk in the following half an hour)

This was a few years ago now but I still remember him well and just how unscary he was when you got to know him. The more he got into camp and felt ok to be him the more of him you saw. My favourite memory of him was on the mounatin biking on Dartmoor. It was a bleak day, the rain was coming at us from all angles, we were wet, we were muddy, we were miles from anywhere and he rode up to the front with a huge friendly grin on his face and said to me (in a manner rather like a big labrador) “This is SO cool, it’s the best fun I’ve ever had!”
There is a moral to this story but I forget what it was!

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