In the Parade Magazine that comes in my Sunday paper, is a puzzle called “Kennections.” Written by Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame, the puzzle lists four or five questions. The goal of the puzzle is to find out what the answers to the questions have in common. Sometimes I am able to figure out part or all of the answers (especially with my smart phone at hand). Seldom am I able to figure out the connection. But I play anyway, telling myself I am doing brain exercises.

This week has been a week of many unexpected events. As I drove to work yesterday morning, reviewing all that has happened, I realized that every event had one thing in common. See if you can make the connection.

Last week, a young college senior went home for the weekend; full of life, seemingly excited about her final year before graduation. She never returned, making the tragic decision to end her life.

Over the weekend, a husband went into the salon where his wife worked, shot and killed her and two other women (four others were wounded) before killing himself. Seven children were left without their mothers.

A young friend showed my daughter the cuts and scars on her arms; evidence of repeated cutting.

What do these all have in common? Pain. And more specifically, adolescents and pain. Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. Our world—our days—are filled with tragedy.

I’m not one to bemoan the loss of the good ole’ days, when things were simpler, less complicated, life didn’t hurt as much as it does now. But, I do know that things are different and that young people need us more to help them carry their pain – help them make sense of difficult times. These times call for those of us engaged in ministry with adolescents to be sensitive to their hurt and their pain.

I love the word attune. The intertwining of its multiple meanings is what I think we are called to as youth workers. To be attuned, speaks of becoming more receptive and aware of what’s happening around us. Can I see the need, the want, the pain of the students I am in contact with everyday? To be attuned is to become accustomed to something. Becoming accustomed to something means to develop a familiarity and to gain a deeper understanding. To be attune, then to student’s pain, I need to be willing to live in it with them—to seek to know their world. This does not necessarily mean that I need to change or fix things. In fact, it probably doesn’t mean that at all. But it does mean that I need to be willing to be inconvenienced and uncomfortable and sit in the messiness with them and listen. Or just simply sit. Another aspect of being attuned, is to be harmonious. For the last few years, most mornings, as I pray before I leave my home, I pray that I will be aware of God’s spirit as I go throughout my day and as I encounter others. My prayer is that in seeking to be sensitive—attuned—to God’s spirit, I will become more attuned to how I can be kind and compassionate. At the end of the day, it is after all about connections.


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About Pamela Erwin

Pamela Erwin (DMin, Fuller Seminary) has a long-time interest in how culture and theology intersect. She studies the global church and issues of reconciliation and diversity. She is also interested in how young people form an understanding of identity and purpose.