Connecting, please wait…
Connection is perhaps the most cherished thing any human being can have
Recently, I had the absolute privilege of visiting my Grandma in hospital. Obviously, the circumstances could have been better but we had the chance to just sit and chat for hours, free from distractions. We spent a lot of time reminiscing about the good ol’ days, which, as it turns out, is a period we both remember quite clearly
My earliest childhood memories all take place at my Grandma’s house, which was just four doors down from our own. When I started primary school my parents were working late hours, so every day after school I would spend a few hours at Grandma’s house. Mostly we would play cricket (I only ever had to bowl when I wanted to - rarely), chess (I only found out years later that in actual fact, both players could lose pieces) or we would just read a book together (I certainly don’t remember being allowed to cheat at that!). Nor do I recall a single day where it was just the television keeping an eye on me.
There was, of course, plenty of food as well – every day I would be treated to the fluffiest most scrumptious scrambled eggs; they would rest upon toast like tiny yellow clouds, as the Nuttelex Lite was just starting to melt into the bread. This would follow with some absolute classics – choc tops, wafers, tictoc biscuits, Arnott’s assorted, home-made cakes and slices; pretty much anything in the pantry or freezer was fair game.
Every afternoon, I would undergo an incredible transformation; from being just one of many in the classroom or playground, to being at the centre of another person’s undivided attentio. As soon as I walked through the door until the moment I left, everything that took place was done for my benefit. These memories aren’t just memories; they’re the experiences of the first connection to another living being that I can consciously recall taking part in. Nothing was too tedious for her if I wanted to do it and nothing was too boring for me when I was doing it with Grandma.
It’s never been easier for young people to connect to each other and the world around them. Conversely, it’s never been harder for young people to connect to a meaningful and profound spirituality. There is a plethora of mobile phone apps that allow us to keep in touch with friends and family, see places we’ve never been or even follow the lives of celebrities we’ve never met astoundingly closely. We can send money and other resources to people and places that we will never meet or visit and we can voice opinions and advocate for causes that have no physical connection to the place we reside in.
Yet, last year, a survey conducted by Lifeline found that 60% of respondents often feel lonely
82% felt as if Australia is becoming an increasingly lonely place.
While Lifeline is primarily an Australian mental health and suicide prevention service and thus focuses its attention in Australia, this trend is fairly consistent in numerous countries around the globe; a profound disconnect in an increasingly connected world.
On a recent ASYC (Australian Salesian Youth Community) retreat, an important point was made that I believe has increasing value for us to consider in this day and age. There is a clear difference between youth work and youth ministry. Youth work aims to empower and advocate for the young person, it places their interests first. Youth ministry, however, seeks to establish and nourish a connection to God, through Jesus Christ. There is, of course, a great deal of overlap, although the slated outcomes of the two are very different.
With the power of hindsight, I realized what my Grandma had being doing was the kind of Youth Ministry that Don Bosco was so adept at, whether she realized it or not. At Grandma’s I was always comfortable; I knew I was loved, even if I was too young to wrap my head around such an intangible concept. We would run, jump and have all the fun but we wouldn’t even dream of sinning.
There were mystical aspects too; we would say prayers before eating and leaving, there were discussions about children’s books with stories from scripture, and there was not even the slightest chance Grandma would ever let anyone step out of the front door without a dab of holy water to the forehead.
Connection is perhaps the most cherished thing any human being can have, and we need connections that satisfy both our human and spiritual needs. This means there are two core things that are required of us; we should always be looking to form and strengthen our own connections to others and be open and facilitating of those trying to connect with us, both human and spiritual.