Everybody Hurts

by Dale Reeves
Story Pastor

 

Twenty-six years ago, the band R.E.M. released the song, “Everybody Hurts.” Frontman Michael Stipe sang,

“When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone;

When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on.

Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries

And everybody hurts sometimes.

’Cause everybody hurts, take comfort in your friends,

Everybody hurts, don’t throw your hand, oh no.

Don’t throw your hand if you feel like you’re alone;

No, no, no, you are not alone.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6yUY7M9yfw

This song was mainly written by the band’s drummer, Bill Berry, who said this, “The reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is that it was aimed at teenagers. I’ve never watched ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me.”

Adults Who Care

I applaud the efforts of high schools that are doing something to help students navigate the challenges of life in high school. Kings High School is one of them. Every year they partner with the Violence Free Coalition of Warren County (@ViolenceFreeCoalition) to offer an education program for their students. The goal of this one-day experience, called ReDo, is to create a positive social climate at the school, and this program is offered to freshmen to help instill a culture of empathy and sensitivity in them as they embark on their four years in high school.

Last Friday I was fortunate to be able to volunteer for the day at Kings High School, along with fellow pastors Alan Baumlein, Brad Wilson, and Tyler Ash. Other adults from the faith community, parents, teachers, and some junior class volunteers gathered in the school gymnasium and participated in some active and crazy games, ate pizza, listened to some powerful stories, and shared in small group discussions. The adult volunteers got to interact with about 140 high school students that day.

Hurt People Hurt People

Kings High School counselor Heidi Murray says this, “We started offering ReDo annually to our ninth graders as a means of helping them break down walls as they transition to high school. The event is meant to open students’ eyes to those outside their immediate circle and realize that we’ve all got our own ‘stuff’—challenges, hardships, hurts. Hopefully, this translates to students being more tolerant and open to each other, pausing to remember that we never know what’s under the surface.”

Everybody hurts. As the day began a week ago, one of the presenters set the tone for the students by saying, “Hurt people hurt people”—then proceeded to tell his story of how he was bullied and almost hanged to death by a few of his childhood “friends.” As the day unfolded, students heard several other stories demonstrating how cruel people can sometimes be, then the students got a chance to share in their small discussion groups some of their greatest hurts. We committed to each other that day, “What’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas”—so I won’t tell you the individual stories I heard in the group I facilitated.

Executive pastor at Christ’s Church, Alan Baumlein, states, “I thought I was fairly well-versed on what today’s high school students are dealing with, but the ReDo experience showed me that I really wasn’t. The amount of pressure and stress that the majority of today’s students have to manage is not just a travesty of growing up today—it is continuing to escalate due to the ‘benefits’ of technology.”

Step Out from the Crowd

After lunch, one of the most powerful parts of the day was when we participated in an activity called, “Step Out from the Crowd.” The presenters put a long piece of blue tape on the floor of the school gym and asked everyone, both students and adult volunteers, to all stand on one side of the tape. They proceeded to read a list of eighteen statements, asking participants to step over the line and come to the other side of the gym if a specific statement applied to them. For instance . . .

  • Step out from the crowd if you have ever been excluded from a group. (100% of us had!)
  • Step out from the crowd if you have ever been ridiculed because of the clothes you wore.
  • Step out from the crowd if you have ever been made fun of because of your race.
  • Step out from the crowd if you know someone who has texted nude pictures to other people.
  • Step out from the crowd if you have had a parent die.
  • Step out from the crowd if you have dealt with serious depression.
  • Step out from the crowd if you have ever been hurt by something that someone in this room said about you or did to you.

It was enlightening to see students and adults respond to these statements, and perhaps for the first time, some students realized that they weren’t alone in their particular hurt or struggle. Christ’s Church teaching pastor, Brad Wilson, explains, “It was eye-opening to see how transparent and honest the students were with each other. Their ability to get vulnerable with each other allowed them to experience some serious transformation during the event.”

Empathize, Pray, Get Involved

As a result of Friday’s event, there were some wounds that were healed between a number of students, empathy that was shared, words of gratitude expressed, and the day ended with a lot of hugs going around the room—even between dudes that don’t typically hug in public. Alan Baumlein summarizes, “We witnessed some transforming conversations and breakthroughs in several students that many adults have never experienced; there were many moments that may well have shifted the trajectory of life for some students moving forward.”

I came away from the day appreciating the educators, counselors, and friends who come alongside students in their times of pain and hurt. I also came away with a renewed desire to commit to pray for our students, their schools, and their families. Educator and “punk rock principal” Michael Earnshaw has said this, “It’s Monday morning . . . you have students that couldn’t wait to get back to school. This is their safe place, you are their constant. Give them a hug to remind them you’re here for them, and teach them with that fire!”

Great advice for teachers and school administrators, as well as for adult volunteers who are engaged in student ministry in the church. Christ’s Church family life pastor, Tyler Ash, shares his feelings about the ReDo experience: “I was blown away by how much high school students are dealing with and how a random and unknown adult showing up can have an impact on their lives. It makes me thankful for the people who volunteer on a regular basis with our elementary/middle/high school students. It also reminded me of the need our students have for the presence of adults who love God and like them.”

Do you love God and like students? If so, maybe God is nudging you to get involved in student ministry in our church, and Tyler would love to talk with you. You can reach out to him at tyler.ash@ourchristschurch.com.

“’Cause everybody hurts, take comfort in your friends,

Everybody hurts, don’t throw your hand, oh no.

Don’t throw your hand if you feel like you’re alone;

No, no, no, you are not alone.”

Anybody you know today who needs to hear this message? “God has assured us, ‘I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,’” (Hebrews 13:5, The Message).

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