Monday, May 10, 2010

Change for Detroit

As some of you may already know, I’m pretty passionate about my generation — the Gen-X/Y’ers, the iPod generation, the Millennials, whatever you want to call them — and what I believe they can accomplish with a little help from those that went before them.

Last weekend, I was given further evidence of their incredible potential.

I work with the youth ministry at my church, and the leaders there are just as passionate—if not more—about the difference they believe these kids can make in their families, their communities and the world. They’ve got some pretty incredible vision for this area specifically, and right now it’s manifested itself as Reverse — a historic week of community service built on the idea of unifying the suburbs and the city.

Reverse will involve 250 students from churches and organizations in suburban Metro Detroit and another 250 from the churches and organizations in Detroit spending a week this summer living together on the campus of Wayne State University. They’ll eat, sleep, play, worship and work together, doing community service projects both in the city and in the suburbs (yes, poverty and struggle exist in the suburbs too, if you care to look close enough). The idea is to bridge the historic, cultural, ethnic, and denominational lines that divide the two sides of the I-75 corridor through students’ relationships with each other. Pretty high aspirations, eh?

Last weekend, hundreds of students from Troy, Birmingham, Lake Orion, Rochester and Clinton Township converged with students and families from Detroit at Second Ebenezer church to kick off the project. City kids and suburban kids sat side by side in a huge auditorium and listened to speakers their parents’ age talk about how they can be the catalyst for a great movement in Metro Detroit. The energy was incredible.

I know there will be naysayers. There will be parents from Rochester who tell their kids that Detroit isn’t safe. There will be elders from the Detroit community who say the motives of people from the suburbs aren’t to be trusted. There will be people who leave comments on this blog telling me that I’m foolish to believe that things can change, that this generation is too focused on themselves to help anyone else. But honestly, I don’t think it matters. The students believe that they can make things better, and there are adults who believe in them too.

And more importantly, they believe that change matters. To them, Detroit is not just a place to check out Tiger’s games during the summer and avoid the rest of the year. It’s not just a dark blemish on an otherwise picturesque Mitten. They feel deep down that if this doesn’t change by the time their lives come to an end, they will have done something terribly wrong. They will have missed a monumental opportunity.

They feel responsible — not in the sense of pointing fingers and laying blame, but in the sense that they have the power to make things right, and to leave things as they are would be simply unthinkable.

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