Some local schools organized an event that was hosted by my church. And all I came to do was help. Nothing special. Go wherever anyone tells me to go. Do whatever they tell me to do.

Early on, I found myself welcoming students and holding one of three ticket boxes for a pretty big raffle. That was fine. But needless to say, not very challenging. I think I may have seen seven students walk by me before the event started.

Then once things got started, I moved inside the sanctuary and became an usher. I looked around at all the students. Some of them looked like they could have been my age and many weren’t too far from it, but I still knew we were worlds apart. At least, from the view on the outside. They were in high school. They were still at the point where their biggest goals were to get a driver’s license, get a car or a job and get out of mom and dad’s house.

I’d been there. Done that. But why did I still feel like there was something connecting us?

That’s because I was seeing what was on the inside that, unbeknownst to me, would be exposed just moments later. The guest speaker was Milton Creagh, a real hard-hitter who’d spoken to more than 8 million teens all over the world. He spoke about the importance of making good decisions and the problems when people get involved with drugs, alcohol, and other inappropriate behaviors.

At one point, he encouraged everyone to “be real” with him as he asked a series of questions that started with phrases like “Have you ever…” and “Do you know someone in your family who…”

The response was astounding.

I’d always prided myself on being able to weather a storm. And I’d thought I was a minority, having seen and experienced a lot of mature things at a young age. But I was wrong.

The majority of the nearly 2,000 students in the room were able to stand when asked if they knew a family member who experienced at least one of the following:

– had been sexually assaulted or beaten by someone they loved
– divorced or had their family torn apart because drug or alcohol abuse
– had been arrested or convicted on a drug or alcohol-related charge
– died as a result of something related to drug or alcohol abuse

After the impromptu quiz, Creagh asked one student why he was standing. And he said he stood because he’d seen all four of those things.

He was only 15.

And I bet he wouldn’t have been the only student with that response. After all, I’d seen 3 of the 4 by the time I was 15.

At that moment, I learned that many of today’s high schoolers aren’t much different than me. Many of them have the same story I do and have lived through similar things. Only they don’t wear their pain on their faces. They still laugh. They still love. And they still live. They’re just hoping others can understand they are not of the world grow up in, they are just in it, and they can still be great in spite of it.

Becuse Lord knows, I do.

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