Recently, Youthfront partnered with Generation Alive and Able Works to mobilize 450 high school students in East Palo Alto to package 100,000 meals for our Something to Eat™ initiative. East Palo Alto is divided from Palo Alto by a freeway. Palo Alto is a very wealthy area fueled by the success of the Silicon Valley. Apple, Google and Facebook are some of the corporate success connected to Palo Alto. East Palo Alto lies in stark contrast to Palo Alto. About 65% of the residents of East Palo Alto are Hispanic/Latino, 16% are African-American, and 10% Pacific Islander/Asian. Several years ago, Michelle Pfeiffer starred in the movie Dangerous Minds as a teacher, teaching a classroom of East Palo Alto high school students whose lives were being destroyed by drugs, gang involvement, illicit sex, crime, etc. For a young person, living in East Palo Alto can still be a dangerous reality. In the few months before our Something to Eat™ event several young people were killed through drug and gang violence. The names Something to Eat™ and Something to Drink™ come from Matthew 25 when Jesus led us to imagine that when someone is hungry or thirsty and we give them food or water it is the same as giving food and drink to Jesus.
More than 450 young people from this under-resourced community moved outside of the dominating and destructive script many of them feel trapped in and instead worked to raise money to provide food for those around the world who are suffering from starvation. Most of these young people have grown up with a script that imprisons them into thinking that they are stuck forever in a story that centers around poverty, drugs, gangs, crime and violence. I wish you could have been an eyewitness to what happened in this Something to EatTM event. We worked hard all day and yet, these teenagers didn’t even want to take a break. We stopped for short five minute breaks throughout the event to talk and reflect on why we were doing what we were doing – information about the world hunger crises, about the importance of taking care of each other along with inspirational thoughts. We had local artists perform Street Poetry that was uplifting and spiritually rich. It was amazing to see what was unfolding.
The East Palo Alto Police Captain spent the day with us. He was so enthused that he was on the phone talking to the news media reminding them that they were all at the recent murder scene involving young people and they needed to come and see the good things young people were doing. I got into a conversation with the Police Captain, an East Palo Alto School Board member and a former mayor of the city. We talked about how important it was to provide the opportunity for these young people to participate in an alternative script to the broken scripts that they had grown up with and ensnared by. We agreed that these young peoples’ imaginations were being unleashed and this has the potential to alter their life scripts forever. It was also cool to learn that the Police Captain grew up in Kansas City and had served our country for many years as a presidential appointed U.S. Marshall
Albert Einstein declared, “Imagination is more important than
knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and
understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”
I believe Youthfront’s mission to bring youth into a growing
relationship with Jesus Christ happens because we embrace the most
powerful script of all – the Gospel. The Gospel unveils a story that unleashes the imagination of those who have
ears to hear. The Gospel story has the power to render other scripts
impotent. Think of Jesus’ own disciples. They fled in fear when he was
arrested. They witnessed his crucifixion. They were hiding in a state of
dreadful trepidation. And when a few of Jesus’ followers, mostly women,
went to his tomb the Gospel story breaks forth with the declaration “He
is not here, he has risen!” Still the disciples hid in disarray and confusion. Although a few were convinced
that Jesus Christ was resurrected, some, Thomas for instance still
didn’t have the imagination to believe that the Gospel proclamation that
Jesus was risen could be true. And then he saw Jesus. Thomas declared,
“My Lord and my God!” I believe the Christian story properly told
stirs the imagination of the listener.