She has Blue Hair. She is Not Your Grandma.

Blue Hair_1_mdGetting to the auditorium late was bad enough. Then I had to find a seat. After several “oh, it’s saved” interactions I finally found seating next to a 14-year-old girl with electric blue hair. At this readers’ theater, she snapped her fingers to show appreciation and encouragement. She cheered with delight for her peers and strangers alike. She celebrated the uniqueness of others and their expressions of self, whether through apparel or hair color. She welcomed me to share the seat next to her.

This was the setting for the readers’ theater that concluded the youth summer writing academy where my son Brock had just spent two weeks. I listened to teens read their pieces, many deeply personal, over the next two hours. Two things stood out:

1. There is a lot of hurt, anger, and fear in the lives of these teenagers. Many are “artsy” kids that find themselves the target of bullies, including parents that just want “normal” kids. These teens don’t have a refuge at home or school where they find unconditional acceptance and love. This isn’t my assumption based on appearances but rather from the pieces shared, peer reactions, and eavesdropping on conversations all around.

2. Despite all of the angst—and this was more than your normal teen “angsty-ness”—there was also a deep community forged and shared at this two-week camp. Many of the students had come here multiple years. Others, like Brock, were rookies. Watching the teenagers was wonderful. The carefree joy and laughter that came after the angst-riddled show demonstrated love shared and experiences connected.

All of this left me wondering. For many of these students, they find safety and community in a writing camp two weeks out of the year. While I celebrate what they have, my heart hurts for what they lack the remainder of the year. We have to do better. My finger-snapping, giddy, seat-offering friend that night deserves better. She made room for me. How am I making room for her?

NOTE: This post is the first in a three-part series about the Blue Haired girls of the world. Next up, I’ve asked Brock to share his reflections, especially as they relate to how people grasped what the church and God thought about them.

This post originally appeared on Brian Foreman’s website and blog. Brian is also the author of #Connect: Reaching Youth Across the Digital Divide.

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