Elevate

I’ve been struggling with what to say about United Mission Week 2016* for over a week now. It’s hard to put into words what this week meant to me, and what exactly happened in just a few days. I should be used to it by now– this was the 5th year I’ve participated– but every year is a brand new experience, with new challenges and memories.

Physically, my work team (team 3) and I took off some of the rotten siding on a house, replaced it, and then painted the whole house. It was a lot of work, but we worked our tails off and it ended up looking awesome. I learned how to use three different saws and sweated more than I ever had before, but it was all worth it.

The woman who owned the house was a grandmother who was taking care of her three granddaughters. On the last day, when she took a look at our finished product she said she couldn’t believe she was looking at her house. Being able to help give someone the chance to feel proud of their home again was the best feeling in the world.

Besides work, our team bonded through a photo scavenger hunt throughout Mansfield, multiple Sonic runs, and the mutual feeling of bliss of a relaxing shower after a tiring day. By the end of the week, that team became my family. For a few of them, I thought I had known them for years, but you don’t REALLY know someone until you’ve been painting trim with them for six hours.

Emotionally, I had my soul rejuvenated. There’s just something about the worship that strikes a cord with your heart. I know it sounds cheesy, and there’s no good way to describe it, it’s just something you have to experience for yourself. One of the best things about mission week is that no one cares if you’re wearing makeup or not, or if you look silly raising your arms up to Him. We’re all so exhausted and emotionally vulnerable, that it all feels very raw. When we’re singing, we’re singing at the top of our voices, no matter our talent level, because we want to be heard. We’re all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what tear-jerking message Amanda shares with us, because that’s what we’re here for. Everyone is relaxed, and the messy little details of our lives don’t seem to matter anymore.

This year, the theme for mission week was Elevate. It means to be a better person today, than you were yesterday, and to continue to grow closer to God. What stuck out to me was that does not mean that you are better than anyone else. It just means to love better and live louder. One phrase that was used a lot was “live love loud.” I love that. And I love United Mission Week.

P.S. HUGE shout out to Darin Charles and Seree Plumlee- two of the best work team leaders ever!!!


*United Mission Week: It’s what my church, First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, does in place of a mission trip. Instead of traveling somewhere, we stay in Mansfield and basically do what you would do on a mission trip here, locally. We sleep at our church and shower at members of our church’s houses. We started doing this 5 years ago, when our youth group got too big to travel all together. They were having trouble finding places for us to all sleep and shower, so they came up with this, and haven’t looked back.


A Few Stats About This Year’s Mission Week:

  • This year was our church’s largest mission week ever.
  • 29 Work Teams
  • 139 High Schoolers
  • 85 Middle Schoolers
  • 5 Special Needs
  • 30 High School Adults
  • 22 Middle School Adults
  • 12 Special Needs Adults
  • 40 Leadership People

Plus, the countless other people that helped- whether it be to cook, bring the work teams snacks, families who opened up their showers to sweaty teenager, etc. Because of all of these amazing people, we were able to make a huge impact on Mansfield and the surrounding area for the 5th year in a row!

My WJMC Family (that I haven’t even met yet)

Two weeks from today I leave for Washington DC for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference hosted by George Mason University. 22 days ago I printed off the transcript for a chat forum that I missed for the conference. I was hoping it would answer a few a questions I had. What I found was so much better.

In the forum, a few people were talking about this group chat that was going on, on an app called GroupMe. A girl named Kayla offered up her email address, saying if you wanted to join the group chat you could email her. I immediately emailed her, and by that afternoon I was in the middle of the craziest conversation of my life.

I was the 74th person to join the group chat (there will be about 280 people at the conference), and since then there’s now about 80 of us. At any given time, there’s anywhere from 2 to 15 people talking at once, so it’s a little insane. In the chat we have people from all over the country, spanning from California, to Maine, to Saipan, which is a US owned territory kinda near Japan.

We talk about everything from music to TV shows to what’s going on on the news to food to what’s going on in our towns to politics to our hobbies to our own personal issues to what we’re wearing at the conference, etc etc etc. We’ve pretty much covered it all. We’re all around the same age- 15 to 18 years old- but we all have different outlooks, experiences, and opinions. We’re not afraid to talk about controversial issues, such as gun control rights, immigration, gay rights, etc. We don’t always agree with one another, but with as many people that are involved in the conversation, that’s near impossible.

But no matter if we agree or disagree with another person, we are ALWAYS polite and civil. We let them share their opinion, and instead of immediately calling them an idiot for not having the same opinion, we ask them to clarify or explain why they feel this way. And instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong, we all gain a greater understanding of why people see things from a certain viewpoint.

I know I can be stubborn at times, but it is truly fascinating and enlightening to learn why people see things from a different point of view. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m sometimes wrong, and even if I still don’t agree with a few people, I at least have a more well rounded view on the topic.

After we’re done talking about a certain issue, as controversial as it may be, we move on. We don’t hold grudges and we aren’t resentful. What I find interesting is, if a group of teenagers can do that, why can’t adults do the same? If you go on Facebook and read the comments for really any given topic nowadays, many of them are hurtful, rude, and ignorant- and they serve no purpose other than that.

That’s why I love this group chat. I may not agree with Amanda on every single thing, but if she sends a message in the group chat at 2am saying she’s scared because an earthquake just woke her up, you can bet that I’ll be one of a dozen people sending her comforting messages until she falls back asleep. No matter what, we’re always supporting and encouraging each other, and the most incredible thing is, most of us have never met in person.

A lot of the people in the group chat suffer from anxiety and general self doubt. Before joining this group chat most of us were super nervous about not knowing anybody and whether or not we’d be able to make friends at the conference. This group chat has calmed a lot of nerves and for many of us, provided an online support system. We have truly become what our group chat is named, WJMC family.

I’ve had the chance to Skype with a lot of people going, but I can’t wait to meet them all in person. It’s so cool to have a group of people that love writing as much as I do. But I think it’s our various differences and how they all come together that’s even cooler.

 

I lost, but I’m not a loser.

I had a plan.

Freshman year: class rep. Sophomore year: student body historian. Junior year: student body vice president. And to end with a bang, senior year: student body president.

This is the story of how that plan fell to shambles and how I’m finally okay with it.

I’ve been in student council since the sixth grade. Mind you, in sixth grade it meant nothing. All I knew was that what few friends I had made since moving to Mansfield were in it and that if I stuck with it, it would look good on college resumes. I also just liked the idea of student council- that you had the power to affect what goes on in your school and help to make it an overall more enjoyable experience for everyone. It was an open club, with about 70 of us in it. We didn’t do much. All I really remember is arguing over what our tshirt would look like and collecting box tops. It was completely run by Mrs. Church and Mr. Lindsay, not really a STUDENT government, but hey, it was sixth grade.

In seventh grade, now in middle school, the numbers thinned to about 50.  The eighth grade “officers” were in a class with Mrs. Crumby and the seventh graders (still an open club) met before or after school about twice a month. Even still, I don’t remember doing much other than helping set up a couple of dances and organizing a canned food drive. Really the eighth graders were the ones running the show and it was still just something I felt cool to say I was in, but not something I was truly part of.

My eighth grade year things changed dramatically. Mrs. Crumby went back to school to get her masters so she could become a librarian, and Worley scrambled to find a new sponsor. They landed on Ms. Lewis, a new teacher who didn’t quite know what she was doing. A once well-oiled machine of a club came to a grinding halt. Eighth grade student council was no longer a class, and the peppy, fun loving Mrs. Crumby was no longer its fearless leader. Student council went from being a very in demand club to something hardly anyone knew about or wanted to be part of. That didn’t stop me. I still ran for student council president, won, and did my best to return it to what I thought was its former glory. That year we had eight students in the council. It was the first year in its history that officer positions were offered up to seventh graders. While I saw friends from the Wester student council (another middle school in our school district) go on fun team bonding retreats, I was trying to convince our principal that our longstanding tradition of having a Valentine’s dance was still worth having. I felt like we weren’t doing enough, but at the same time doing the most that we possibly could with our limited membership and strict administration.

Despite that, I still applied to be in student council in high school. They took three people from Worley and three from Wester. I remember doing a happy dance with my friend Bailey when we got our letters saying we got in. I couldn’t wait.

High school student council was finally what I always pictured: fully run by the students and planning the events that made school fun. Freshman year I was also in the marching band, so I didn’t get to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to the council, but I still loved it nevertheless. There were about thirty officers and I just loved the group dynamic and almost everything about it. I had finally really found MY people. The kind of people that genuinely enjoyed learning and applying yourself. The kind of people that were as uber organized and passionate and nerdy and amazing as me.

Sophomore year I was old enough to join the newspaper staff, so between that and student council, dropping band wasn’t that difficult. I was the student body historian (still on track with my plan), which I loved. It allowed me to be crafty and use Mod Podge, and if you know me, that is my dream. I was also the Teacher Appreciation Committee Head, which was also a lot of fun. I loved showering the teachers with love, because they really don’t get enough of it. I wrote for the newspaper, but I threw myself more into student council, because for as long as I could remember, it was my priority. I sort of thought maybe senior year I would go for an editor position on the newspaper, but I never put too much thought into it.

A few weeks ago, I ran for student body vice president. It looked like I would be running unopposed, but last minute, a friend of mine decided to run against me. I was really hurt, because he knew how much student council meant to me and just the way he did it was a little sneaky. I gave the election my all, but I still lost. I’ll be honest, I cried A LOT that afternoon. My plan had fallen apart, and on top of that, I couldn’t get it back on track because to run for student body president, you have to hold another student body position the year before. I ended up taking a class rep position, that way I could stay in the council, but it felt like a major demotion. I was heartbroken. Up until then, I lived in a world where if I worked hard enough, I usually got what I wanted.

A few days later, Mrs. Watson, the newspaper sponsor, asked me if I’d be interested in having an editor position next year. Since I was planning on putting most of my eggs in my student council basket next year, I didn’t apply for one, thinking I’d be too busy. I immediately said yes, and a few days later she announced that I would be the news editor. There will be five editors total, and I’ll be the only junior. I’m hoping this will lead to the editor-and-chief position my senior year, but we’ll see. I am so excited for this opportunity. I’ve loved being a staff writer this year, so I’m really looking forward to dedicating more time to the paper this coming year.

Writing has always been my passion, and I plan on majoring in journalism in college. This will look better on my writing resume for when I go to apply to journalism programs, and will give me more experience in general. I think the reason why I didn’t think of it before was because I’m the type of person that if I start something, I like to finish it, and finish it fabulously. Since I hopped on the student council route first, it was hard to get off of it and focus on something else.

I will still play a part in student council- I applied to be the Teacher Appreciation Committee Head again- but it will no longer be my number one priority. I’ve gotten over losing my election: I know my friend will do an excellent job. I’m now on a different path, and that’s okay. I guess it’s the old saying “if one door closes, another door will open.”

I don’t know where my high school career is going to take me in the next two years, but I’ve learned not to invest so much in plans I made when I was still in middle school.

So I lost, but as you can tell, I am far from a loser.

 

 

 

 

**And if you want to see pictures of the kick butt scrapbook I made, you can look in my photo gallery. I may do a post about it later.**

A Teenage Girl’s Take on the Transgender Bathroom Debate

When I made this blog, I wasn’t expecting this to be my first post. I was expecting it to be about something fairly happy-go-lucky such as a book review or something about student council. But as the insanity of this whole transgender bathroom debate increases, I can no longer keep my mouth shut. I know this is most likely just another opinion being thrown into the void, but I don’t care, so here goes.

I’d like to start off by saying that I am a sixteen year old straight, born and identified female. What does that mean? It means that this debate doesn’t affect my life at all, just like it doesn’t affect the millions of other people that are bitching about it (and I’m not one to cuss, so you know I’m not messing around).

Transgender people make up half of one percent of the population of the United States. That’s about 1.6 million people. That’s not a lot. They’re just normal people trying to live normal lives, and who are trying not to draw any more attention to themselves. When they go to the restroom, they’re doing what the rest of us are doing. Peeing, trying not to think about the last time this toilet seat has been cleaned, washing their hands, and getting OUT. They’re not peeping into your stall or molesting your children. Why? Because transgender people know how hard they’ve had to fight for their rights, and they’re not going to do anything to screw that up. Especially now.

Now, I am well aware there are risks to allowing transgender people to use the bathroom they identify with. I am not naïve, so I know there’s a high chance a few bad people will exploit this to gain access to women and children when they’re vulnerable. But that just goes back to educating the public on rape culture, and what’s appropriate. But that’s a whole other discussion. My point is, yes there are a few bad apples, but that doesn’t justify labeling a whole group of innocent people as potential pervs.

If anything, it can be more dangerous for transgender people to use the restroom they belong to biologically. If a transgender woman tried to use the men’s restroom (like North Carolina is insisting she do), she could easily be attacked. Or the other way around, I’m pretty sure if a transgender man walked into the women’s restroom, at least one woman would freak, even if he was only doing what his state was insisting him to do. The world is a scary enough place for transgender people that the last thing they should have to worry about is where they can pee.

And on top of that, the idea that school districts such as Rowan-Salisbury are now allowing their students to have pepper spray in the event that they run into a transgender student in the bathroom is just atrocious. I’m a sophomore in high school, and let me tell you- it ain’t easy. You’re balancing classwork and extracurriculars and jobs and relationships and planning out your future, all while trying to figure out who the hell you are as a person, and what that even means. If someone is brave enough to already have figured that out and has shown the world, they should be rewarded for that and shouldn’t have to worry about getting maced while using the toilet. Not to mention, school officials should never be purposefully encouraging violence.

But the bottom line is this. Let transgender people pee in the restroom they identify with. They have enough of other obstacles, that most people (like me) wouldn’t ever dream of having to deal with- and the restroom shouldn’t be one of them. There are so many bigger issues going on the world today like hunger, sex trafficking, global warming, etc. that we shouldn’t even still be wasting valuable time, money, and other resources talking about this. Besides, if you’re so worried about the genitals of the person in the stall next to you, they’re not the perv- you are.

-Abby