Monday, April 25, 2016

"Wow, I guess people really want to feel loved." Love Tanks Spring 2016

This Storyline Post from my fav girl Shauna Niequist has stuck with me. She writes,  

"It doesn’t matter how you feel in your heart about your friends—what matters is showing those feelings through words and actions. Aaron had a college professor who said over and over, “It doesn’t matter how much you love your kids. What matters is communicating that love in a way that they can understand and feel that love.”

And the same is true for friendship. As it is true for marriages and all relationships. It’s so easy for me to feel warm, loving thoughts about friends or family members… and then go on about my day, never reaching out, sending a text, or setting a date to connect.

I think about them all the time, pray for them, and watch the details of their lives spool out over Facebook—first day of school photos, last moments of summer photos. I feel connected and warm, full of affection for these lovely people.
But how on earth would they know that?

I’ve been noticing all the times that I think loving thoughts about the people in my life… and then produce no corresponding action to show that love.

Now that I'm noticing it, I’ve sent more texts and emails, a couple old-fashioned letters. I’ve scheduled a walk and a coffee and a dinner. I’ve looked people in the eye and said, “I love you. I’m thankful for you.”

Because at the end of the day, Aaron’s professor is exactly right: It doesn’t matter how much you love someone. What matters is that they know it."

Once a semester at Young Life we gather together kids and leaders for Love Tanks. On this night we practice being intentional about making sure our people know we love them and are thankful for them. It's become a tradition that's anticipated like Christmas morning.

And people can't get enough of it. When we announce that it's Love Tank time the kids show up in packs. They might have been MIA the last few weeks or months, busy with sports or homework or a thousand other things, but on this night they wouldn't dream of missing Young Life.

They get their parents to let them skip practice. The Juniors and Seniors bring along underclassman. Suddenly the Barn is packed with more kids than we've seen in a very long time. Because we all have this desire in common don't way? The desire to be loved and to share that love. It's a rare opportunity and when it's being offered up like this you'd be crazy to turn it down.

A girl said to me tonight, "I just learned what Love Tanks is! No one can say anything mean to me-- that's awesome!" School isn't the safest place for her, but YL has become a community where she feels safe and loved. This may have been the first time that she would ever feel encouraged and supported like this.

Here's how it works:
Every person gets a brown paper bag that we call their Love Tank. You grab a stack of squares of paper and start writing your notes as fast as you can. You fill up the page with compliments, with memories, with hopes, with thank yous. You write until your hand cramps and scrawl your name at the end. Then you're on to the next note. There are so many people here and you want to write to as many as possible. 

Music blares through the gym as our piles of notes grow. "It's so stressful," a YL girl told her mom when she got back home. "You want to write to everyone and you just can't make your hand go faster." You know that you'll write to your best friends and to the leader that took you to camp last summer. But then you want to write to the girl who you want to become friends with, the person who is new to YL and may not know that many people, to the newest member of your volleyball team that you just started playing with.

When there are 5 minutes left, the room turns into a chaotic frenzy of note delivery. Everyone is buzzing around the room stuffing their stack of notes into the recipients' love tanks. Slowly the bags get full-- all of them-- no one gets left out. You might run back to write one last note so no one is forgotten.

Then we circle up, a giant hand-holding mob, to pray together before we head out. Love Tanks bags in hand, we head home, reminded of what it feels like to be intentional about loving others and being loved so well.

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