A Saturday In March

I’ve always loved a good Saturday.

When I was a kid, there was no better day of the week than a Saturday. It was filled with the best kind of breakfast cereals (Lucky Charms, ya’ll!), TV shows (Saved By The Bell forever!), lazy pool days in the summer and busy days at the basketball gym in the winter, fun and family, relaxation and rest.

And as an adult, I’ve come to love my Saturdays even more. No alarms, no early mornings, and a slow morning to sip my coffee from the comfort of my couch.

There’s just something special about a Saturday.

I don’t know what you did last Saturday, but I sat raptured by what thousands of others were doing with this particular Saturday in their lives around the country. Like many of you maybe were, I was tuned into coverage of the March For Our Lives in Washington this past weekend. And as I watched it unfold, I spent a good part of my Saturday weeping in front of the television.

It was a pretty amazing picture—kids from all over the country, all different backgrounds, and races, and economic classes, and perspectives, and stories all united by a common pain and passion.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I don’t want this blog to be a place where politics are debated on the Internet. Those are my absolute least favorite corners of the World Wide Web, and that’s why I have no intention of making this blog one of them. I don’t think there’s all that much that’s constructive about people using their keyboard courage to call each other names and angrily debate their political opinions with strangers on the Internet. I just don’t think it gets anybody anywhere really.

And to be honest, it wasn’t really the politics that had me so riveted and in tears on Saturday; it was the kids.

If you don’t see or believe in the power, potential, and ability in the lives of students today, then turn on your TV. Look around you. Start listening. Because these kids are smart and passionate and eager to make a difference in the world, and they’re boldly finding their voices to speak out for what they believe is best for this broken world we live in. And even if you don’t agree with everything their voices are saying, I think we can all agree that there’s power in seeing them discover their voices. I mean, imagine what the future might look like if a whole generation of kids grew up knowing the significance and worth of their words and voices in this world?

If you know me, then you know finding my voice hasn’t really been all that challenging (Honestly, the more challenging part for me is to know when not to use that voice sometimes!) And while some of that I know has to do with the way God specifically created me, I think a lot of it also has to do with the way I was raised. I grew up with parents who never shushed my voice. Even though it probably annoyed them from time to time, or said things they didn’t agree with or understand, or spoke up when they wished I would’ve kept quiet, they never quieted my voice. And in the middle of that, they taught me to think critically about things happening around me. They taught me to care about, use wisely, and not take for granted the right I have to use my voice in this world.

I remember going with them to the local elementary school where they cast their vote in the Presidential election every four years. I waited in line with them and went into the booth when they cast their votes. I love to vote in our elections as an adult now (Confession: I keep my “I voted!” sticker for weeks after it’s given to me every year.), and I think that’s because my parents taught me early on to recognize the value of my voice in our country. Maybe it’s because they grew up in the sixties, an era where protests and voices and convictions were front and center to make change in the world. They were impacted directly by things like the Vietnam War and even have stories about how things like segregation, drugs, and politics impacted their communities growing up. They have stories about using their voices and seeing others do the same to make change.  

My parents are pretty cool, yes, but that isn’t really my point. My point is that because of how I was raised, it didn’t take something terrible happening to me for me to know that my voice had power. It didn’t take trauma or tragedy or fear for me to know that I could speak up.

But for the kids I saw on TV last Saturday, that story was different. They had to endure something horrific to find their voices, but now that they’ve found them, they’re using them with confidence and passion and purpose. And though I may not agree with every single thing they’re saying with those voices, I still think it’s a pretty cool sight to see.

Don’t sleep on this generation, ya’ll! I spend a lot of time talking to and thinking about students in my life right now. I work for a company that writes curriculum and resources designed specifically for them. I teach dance to them every Wednesday night. I sit across from them in small group every other week. I meet with them for mentoring one-on-one every month. And I’m telling you from my own experience, these kids are amazing. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re empathetic. They want to learn. They want to listen. And they want to be the difference in this broken world.

There was a March in Atlanta last Saturday where I live, too. And while I didn’t attend, I do know several students who did go. One student in particular I happened to have a meal with the week before where she told me that she was planning to go. And when she said that, I asked her why—why did she want to give up her precious Saturday to get up early, drive downtown, stand outside in the unseasonably cold weather, and be a part of this march.

She answered me with a really intelligent, compassionate, well thought out response. She knows exactly what she believes is right. She understands how government and democracy works. She has ideas for the kind of legislation she thinks would help solve the issues she’s seeing. She knows exactly what she’s standing up for and why she wants to use her voice.

And while we may not see eye to eye on every single aspect of the issue, I was so excited to listen to her response. Because I care about her, I believe in her, and I want to be a grown up in her life who is using my voice to encourage her to find the best way to use hers to make change and impact the world around her as she grows up.

I mean, isn’t that why God gave us a voice in the first place? To use it to tell other people about Him. To talk about the things that matter deep in our hearts. To share our stories and make a connection with other people To try and change the world for the better. 

I think that’s what these students in the world are figuring out: Their voices have power and potential.

And as someone whose been lucky enough to know that in my own life, I’m really grateful to be along for the ride with them as they continue to figure this truth out themselves.

Sara Shelton