making a difference

Listening to NPR this morning, my attention was snagged by a conversation between Steve Scher and two teenage girls from South Seattle. These intelligent young ladies were on the air to discuss youth violence and teen culture in this area. As I listened, one of the voices began to sound familiar, and soon enough, Steve re-introduced the girls, and realized that one, nick-named “Mook”, was a girl I knew several years ago.

In college, I volunteered as a Wyldlife leader (the middle-school version of Young Life) at McClure Middle School on Queen Anne, which served that wealthy neighborhood as well as kids from around Seattle. Many of the girls I had relationships with lived in the low-income area near Beacon Hill. Even in 6th and 7th grade, these girls were faced with many choices that were completely foreign to me, having grown up in near-suburban southwest Portland. Drugs and alcohol were certainly available, supervision was not. Although I didn’t personally come face-to-face with gang activity, violence was an every-day reality in the school culture (and a frequent part of life mentoring these kids).

Mook, who we called MJ at the time, was a girl who I ran across often (she was mentored by my boss, Megan). She was always outspoken and intelligent, but didn’t make all the right choices… but who does at that age? On the show, Mook mentions a day that a close friend of hers was shot at the community center, and Mook thought “wow, that could have been me!” This wake-up call led her to change her patterns, friend groups, and eventually start M.A.D. (Making a Difference), a group which exists to foster help for at-risk youth and bring down youth violence in Seattle.

In an interview on the Seattle Channel, Mook speaks against the current attempts to quell the storm of violence by creating programs and increasing available hours at community centers. The better alternative, she says, is for an adult to get to know a kid one-on-one. “Take me out to lunch. I love food,” she says. I can’t help but think that this idea stems from once-upon-a-time when her Wyldlife leaders took an interest in her. Whoever it was, it’s obvious that this young girl has been impacted by the people who have come into her space, reached into her life and loved her.

It’s hard to describe the joy I feel because this girl has grown up into an intelligent woman who is taking on a difficult problem and advocating for her peers. You go, MJ!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie
    May 26, 2010 @ 00:22:26

    I heard the same show. It’s amazing how clueless I am with what goes on with kids in our area. What a wakeup call.


  2. chrissie
    May 27, 2010 @ 23:10:18

    Thanks for sharing Katie, this encouraged me more than you know. At times reaching out to love and walking with young people can seem like it makes no difference. I am so encouraged by stories like this. Tursting again that when we are obedient and love without holding back our actions can go deeper than we know. There might not be fruit from every encounter but we might never know how the Holy Spirit will work though us to touch others.


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