It's the night before Christmas eve and tension is high. I'm not surprised or disappointed, I'd be more worried if this didn't happen. Everyone gets so anxious about cooking and cleaning and hosting the perfect Christmas. If you're one of those people: CHILL. Your family members won't be around forever, so cherish this time you are spending with them now. You'll get everything done, you always do. Take a step back and tell everyone just how much you love them. LET IT GO. There's no point in having these negative feelings toward one another. This season is about giving, loving, and honoring Jesus, not stressing. Just relax and say thanks to God for all your blessings.
On a completely different note, Taylor Swift's latest single, "Fifteen", has been on my mind lately. The first time I heard it was when I bought her album last fall, and I thought it was a cute song, but I often skipped over it when listening to T. Swift music. When it was released as a single, I heard it on the radio on my drive to school. Although it's only been a year since the first time I heard it, the song has a whole new meaning for me now.
I played it for my favorite (shh) student...the one who left a few weeks ago. I played it on her 15th birthday and watched her facial expressions as Taylor sang the words. She looked up at me at one point and said "don't you hate it when a song is SO TRUE?". She asked me to make her a copy of Taylor's CD. Now, every time I hear that song, I think of that student....and all my other students who are dealing with issues of figuring out who they are, who they want to be, falling in love, striving to be popular.
When I was 15, I had a wonderful parents who supported me and cared for me, always making sure I was taken care of. I went to an amazing high school and had plenty of friends. I was sure I was going to be a nurse and was passionate about helping other people and putting a smile on their face. I became more interested in music and writing. I was happiest when I was at school, because I was in my element there. Almost everyone knew my name and I was always busy. Inside, I was struggling with anxiety. At the time, I didn't understand it, so I pushed it away and covered it by eating. Despite the anxiety, I would say I had a very good life. I thought I was in love with a boy, but I know I had no idea what love was.
My kids, on the other hand, are struggling. Almost all of them come from single parent homes, some live with a grandparent or other relative. They are all from low income households and are at our school because it is the only Catholic, college prep education that they can afford in the city of Detroit. They have been through more than I could possibly imagine. They've seen the affects of violence, drugs, sex...in their neighborhoods, in their own homes. I don't know how they remain so strong. When I look at them I see faces of children, looking for someone to reach out to them and hug them, to be their mentor...someone who actually gives a damn what they think about, their dreams and hopes. I see how desperately they try to get the attention of the opposite sex, right now that is their biggest priority. They want to feel loved. They think they will marry their secret crushes, and they have no idea where they see themselves in a few years, because, for the most part, they have been told they won't go anywhere. The staff pushes them hard, making sure they know they can be the best person they choose to be. That's why I play songs like "Fifteen" for them. I want them to know that although it may seem like the whole world is against them, there are people cheering for them. Even Taylor Swift.
Another 15 year old who deserves all the love and peace in the world is Laurence. You all know the story of my cousin Laurence and that right now he is very, very sick. Laurence is extremely special to me, he's always been my little buddy and I adore him. His illness has been hard on me, and hard to grasp that someone so young is suffering so much. I went to visit him on Monday, something I've been wanting to do for a while. His head is very swollen, and he is very thin because he barely eats. He can't stay awake very long and speaks 1-2 words at a time. However, I could still see how hard he is fighting and how much he cares. I loved that he was wearing a U2 Shirt and that he was trying to listen as I was talking about my job and my students. He has raised over $16,000 for Nothing But Nets, getting closer to his $20,000 goal. There will be a story on him in the Detroit News out on Christmas Day, so those of you in the area make sure you get a copy. Laurence, I love you to pieces, I'm proud of you and inspired by you. Keep on fighting.
I love you all and hope that you have a very, very Merry Christmas. Here is the video for the song....take a listen and reflect. Reach out to a 15 year old and let them know you love them.