poverty of normalcy

[legacy post from innovideo creative blog]

2009 has been a tough year for many in our student ministry. Among the stories of pain and struggle are three families, all in the middle school at the time it happened, who lost their dads. One of those students is a 6th grade guy, so he’s most intensely on my personal radar. His dad wasn’t even sick when he came into the group in June, and less than four months later, this young man marked his 12th birthday the day after his dad died. I took this amazing student to Taco Bell for lunch today.

To anybody stopping by on their lunch break, it would have seemed quite unremarkable. I’m guessing his friends at school mainly think he’s pretty lucky to get to avoid cafeteria food. But if I might presume to peel back the mundanity of eating tacos, I think we might see something pretty profound that, when I get to engage in it, is an experience that has often moved me to the core. This young man has had his world shaken in the last two months in ways that it may take years for him to really begin to understand. His sister and mom have too. What I try to bring to him and his family is just a trace of normalcy, of stability, of sanity. A couple weeks after the memorial, some of the boys joined him for pizza, laser tag, and bowling after church. Again, such an unremarkable thing. Except when your world hardly makes sense. To be able to laugh, to enjoy friends, to play… If we haven’t forgotten the importance of these simple things, we can certainly take them for granted.


We have GREAT kids in our group. Yet, many of them, and the kids they rub shoulders with day in and day out, live in poverty. That’s meant to be a shocking statement. The Blue Valley/ Olathe/ Shawnee Mission area that draws most of our students is extremely affluent. I talked several years ago with a middle school principal in the area who was asked by a visiting administrator from my home district of Manhattan how many kids in the school qualified for free and reduced lunch. His reply was, “you know, I think we do have one this year.” One. So, yes, financially this area is well above the national and state mean income.

But I do contend that many live in dire poverty. They are starved for the attention of their parents, uninterrupted by Crackberries and stock tickers. They long for more than activity, more than entertainment, more than being given more stuff. They cry out (in ways that may be well disguised as antics, rudeness, sullenness, and the like) for purpose. They can’t explain it, but they want their lives to count. Amidst alarming prosperity – current economic uncertainty notwithstanding – many live in abject poverty of the soul.

If you are a parent, I do not condemn you if the lines above have made you uncomfortable, nor do I apologize for them. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like to be a parent. As it is, there are times when the compassion and love I experience for the students I am blessed to shepherd literally makes me hurt. Working together with the entire “team” of adults in your children’s lives, you can and do make a radical difference. If you are teacher, Sunday school teacher, youth leader… I’m talking to you too.

My nearly 20 years as a volunteer youth leader – mostly for middle school students – have overwhelmingly shaped who I am as a person. Lately, there has been something stirring in me that may soon burst out into what I hope will be a wildfire of influence and inspiration. I am still inviting clients into the innovideo family. God has gifted me to see things with an artistic eye, and I will use that as He leads. But I believe something even greater could come of what only just recently broke into the top of my consciousness. Hijacked it, if you will. If you know me, it will make perfect sense when I am able to reveal more.

For now, this will end the way that I have been blogging on the innovideo creative site. I will try to update that blog as I am able with topics of interest within the realm of digital artistry. Another reason for this is purely pragmatic. I need to be able to blog quickly as thoughts seize me. Currently I have to come all the way to Martin City to use the Mac. Apple fanboi though I am, iWeb just isn’t cutting it for this. More soon.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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