I left the barber shop and headed to the coffee shop a couple of doors down. I walked in and there was Ms. Dee, a woman in her mid-50’s who was behind the counter. She was speaking to the young woman in front of me as if they were old friends. When it was my turn to order, she called me “Honey” more than once and threw in a “Sugar" just for good measure. Maybe it is because I am a sucker for jovial people who use such terms of endearment with reckless abandon, but I felt seen, respected and cared for. She had welcomed me. All of that while ordering a cup of coffee!
Now all of this got me to thinking, as most interactions in my day tend to do. I thought about how we demonstrate this kind of care and presence in our parishes and missions. How do our young people know that they are unique expressions of God’s image and are beloved? Do they feel authentically welcomed? Sometimes I think that it is as simple as being oriented towards
In customer service, an area in which I worked throughout my teens and early twenties, you learn that the customer comes first. And while this axiom is not practiced as it once was, when we encounter it in our daily living we are uniquely aware of it. The same is true when it comes to young people and the Church. Young people are uniquely aware when they encounter an experience or opportunity that has been created with them in mind. This does not mean that we need to change how we do everything, but it may very well mean that we need to make it easier for youth to access it all. We need to be sure that our community is oriented toward genuinely welcoming youth and others from outside our community. Perhaps the first question we need always ask is this: Do young people and those outside of our community authentically feel welcomed here?
Andrew Kellner is the Canon for Family & Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Pennsylvania.