Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We Broke the Cell System

This past weekend was a little shin-dig in Indy called the National Catholic Youth Conference. Never heard of it? Well, honey! Let me share a few of the highlights:

  • 23,000 teens swampped a city...and there were no riots. The wonderful police force who helped keep our kids safe were greeted with kind words, offered the trinkets (and hats, and moustaches) that the kids brought to trade.
  • It wasn't a rock concert that brought in all those stage lights, sound systems and filled the stadium - no, it was a wonderful group of faith-filled adults sharing humor, music, and faith with the young Church.
  • Those kids flooding between the Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Conference Center weren't looking for trouble - they were looking to get the good seats at one of the fantastic workshops!
  • Then there was Mass. On a Saturday night, 23,000 teens rocked LOS with entrance hymns (I think 4 or 5). Praised and worshiped God in the Word, Eucharist, and community. And spent hours happily Mass.
  • Let's not forget when, under the specific instructions of Bishop Coyne, we all pulled out our phones, tablet computers, and so forth. We then happily Tweeted, emailed, texted, or Facebooked "Called to Glory!" And promptly flooded the towers in downtown Indianapolis. Oopps - what a way to go though!

But that's not the whole story.

  • At an event where they had to fundraise or pay several hundred dollars to participate, I saw teens buying bagels by the dozen. Not to eat, but to give out in packages of six to the homeless people they had passed by.
  • I watched teens offer seats to those with crutches, even if it meant they had to go and stand in the back of the room.
  • I listened to the stories kids told after workshops of how they felt they encountered God.
  • As someone in a long time military family, it warmed my heart to see kids making greeting cards to send to troops that are abroad when the teens could otherwise be playing in the games area.
  • Teens shared trading items, snacks, bottles of water juice or soda.
  • Teens lifted each others' spirits when exhaustion took hold.
There are times these days when things look dire and we may fall to the temptation of despair. However, these teens that descended upon Indianapolis reminded me of the great hope for our future. And the great hope of the now. For they are not the future Church. They are not the future of our nation or our world. They are the Church now. They are hope for us now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Thoughts

Since I nearly broke my wrist off a few moments ago attempting to twist the cap off my favorite beverage (Sparkling Ice Black Raspberry flavor), I have temporarily misplaced my concentration so here's a blog post instead on a few rambling thoughts.

It is pedal to the metal for final NCYC prep. I've got the kids and parents coming to a final meeting Sunday before out evening Mass. Handing out all sorts of final information including the packing list. The packing list really helps to make sure that those kids that tend to forget things bring the crucial items and those that overpack have the written limits.

I also highlight the idea of tips. The kids are good about this at restaurants (they pull out the tip calculators on their phones). Few though think of tipping the housekeeping staff and bus driver. It is customary to do this. The general idea is about $1-2 per person per day for housekeeping. So if you have several kids in a room, it will be a nice tip. Especially as kids tend to leave a natural disaster behind them each day and in the boys' rooms there will be that peculiar and yet to be identified...odor... The other tip is for the bus driver. There also the idea is about $1 per person, per day. I'm going to nab an idea from another area CYM and print envelopes for the kids with the date in one corner and the simple address "housekeeping" in the address field.

While I bring a couple of basic prepackaged snacks that the kids can take with them during the day like fruit snacks, granola bars, I encourage each family to pack another snack their teen can share with the others. This adds variety. Since we're in a hotel with microwaves in the room, I am also giving the kids microwave popcorn for at night to add to their stash of food.

On the personal side, I'm thinking of what I'm going to pack. As a vegetarian, I know that a problem for me at many of the restaurants and concessions stands will be finding vegetarian sources of protein (salads, vegetarian sandwiches are common). So I always make sure to have some bars with me that are high in protein. I also take chocolate covered espresso beans. Sad, but helpful. Two or three of those guys and I've got a second wind. My water bottle will also be crucial. I always have my pouch of first aid items, feminine hygiene products, and basic OTC medicines in my backpack. Between blisters and paper cuts a few band-aids are used just about every day.

I also would strongly recommend you plan on having Monday as a day to recover! NCYC is a fantastic experience, but with the chaos for over 12 hours with 25,000 teens and an average of 4-5 hours of sleep each night I usually come back exhausted. My dog loves the naps I inadvertently take while we're curled up on the sofa watching NCIS or L&O:SVU reruns after events like this!