It's About Far More than the Shirt

14 SPRING It's About Far More than the Shirt.jpg
In Louisiana there’s a young girl walking the halls of her high school, wearing a Young Life T-shirt — nothing unusual except for the fact she’s never attended Young Life. 

Annie is from the wrong side of the tracks. She is repeating her sophomore year in high school. She’s short, shy, unassuming, would never be voted most fashionable, and works because she needs the money. Annie is someone the world walks past without noticing. Sadly, if I’m honest, I’d probably do the same thing.

On a Monday night in October, we showed up at the local mini golf course for our Young Life fundraiser. Amid the hustle and bustle of lining up teams, sponsors, food, program characters, volunteers and inviting my high school friends to play, my eyes were on the details of the tournament. But they had lost sight of our mission — that we’re about Christ and kids — until I met Annie. 

She was working at the golf course that night. As the first flight of teams left the clubhouse and started to play, Annie and I started talking. She wanted to know about Young Life and I wanted to know about her. I discovered she was someone who loves her job at the course — carefully lining up the remaining putters for the golfers, inspecting the various colored golf balls, and cleaning the ones that didn’t meet her standards. Though she’s worked at the mini golf course for six months, she’s never played a round of mini golf. My guess is she has never had someone who would play with her.

Eventually all of the adults were on the course, and I started to get ready for the high school students coming to play. Due to a shipping snafu, the promised Young Life T-shirts would be arriving the next day, and I made a sheet for golfers to fill in their name, phone number and shirt size so we could get them their shirts. The clubhouse was soon filled with the excited conversations of high school kids ready to play, and they all made sure to leave their information for the treasured Young Life shirt. Once they exited and started playing, a small and now familiar voice asked, “If I put my information on the sheet, could I get a Young Life shirt?” It was a simple question with an easy answer, but also a deep question with layers of answers. Excited to get a free shirt, Annie scribbled her information down, but I believe she was more excited to belong, to be a part of something, and to be worth a $7.45 shirt.

My wife, Liz, teaches at Annie’s school. That Friday morning Annie stopped by Liz’s classroom to get her shirt. She entered a room full of girls who hang out there every morning and lunch. Girls who are college-bound athletes, cheerleaders, honor students and homecoming court members. Their laughter became eerily silent as this shy girl with a funny walk entered and asked Liz if she had her shirt. Liz told her the printer had screwed up the colors, but a new one, printed properly, would be coming next week — and she would have one for her. Annie shuffled out, and once out of earshot one of the girls asked incredulously to Liz, “How do you know her?”  Liz explained about the mini-golf tournament, and the girl replied, “You shouldn’t talk to her!” In her patiently sweet way, Liz answered, “I think she is nice, and I am still going to talk to her. She’ll be back next week to get the T-shirt we promised her.” End of discussion.

Annie is one of the many kids at her school nobody gives two cents about and she reminds me why Young Life is desperately needed at her school. Annie’s story is repeated too many times. Young Life leaders are trusted adult friends who listen to kids’ stories, share their own and tell kids the Great Love Story in a way most have never heard before. I pray we’ll let kids know that not only are they worth a $7.45 shirt, but they are worth the death of God’s own Son. Christ died for the Annies of this world, and we should not rest until they’ve heard His story.

Names have been changed.