This week at St. Peter’s UCC Church in Okawville Pastor Jeff’s message was about the tax collector Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to get a better view of Jesus, to get a different perspective. Pastor Jeff incorporated that idea of getting a different perspective into Children’s Time, when all the little ones come up for a special message. He had them climb up to the choir loft, which is high up for the children. (The picture below has the junior choir in the loft and the little ones on the floor.) He asked them if they could see things they had not before in church and they rang out, “Yes, we can!”
That change in what we see can come about by looking from a different spot, as Pastor Jeff had the children do, and in other ways, too. We can gain a change in perspective by trying to see through other’s eyes instead of through our own, or by asking others their thoughts.
A few months ago, Amber, the nurse at New Athens High School called me and asked if I’d come talk to the high school students about the book I’d recently co-authored, Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis. She’d read the book and felt it would be impactful for the students to hear about some real-life examples of drug addiction’s consequences.
I told her that while I enjoy public speaking, teenagers were not my usual audience, so I wasn’t comfortable saying yes. She was persistent, though, and, after some prayerful consideration, I agreed.
Friday was the end of the school’s Red Ribbon Week, a week where drug mis-use is highlighted, and my presentation would be the culmination of activities for the week. I thought that if even one student in the school might be helped by what I could relay in 45 minutes, it would be worth it, even if I bombed with most of them!
As the time grew near, I was struggling with how to discuss the topic with them and admitted I needed some help from someone with more expertise with young adult audiences. I asked Diana Cuddeback, Director of Heartlinks Grief Center and co-author of Heartbroken, for her perspective and ideas. She graciously agreed to co-present, and I felt such relief.
We developed the presentation together – with me doing the introduction and readings from four family’s stories of drug addiction and loss and Diana doing the interactive parts that she felt would work to engage the students.
As we worked on what would be the most important parts to relay to the students, I tried hard to view this from their perspective, not mine. I struggled to remember how it felt to be a teen and how it felt to have some older person come talk to us. I remembered how I thought then, “They don’t understand me,” or “BORING!” I sure didn’t want that! I was relieved that Diana had a different perspective on talking to young adults and had lots of ideas for getting them involved through questions and volunteering.
On Friday the students were very respectful and listened attentively to the information on the opioid crisis and addiction. I could tell as I read the stories of four young adults and their families from the book, that it was hard for them to hear. That it was difficult to listen to the reality of addiction. As we relayed the grief the parents felt as they lost their child, I could feel their discomfort and that it impacted some of them.
Just like Pastor Jeff helped the little ones view the church differently, I believe Diana and I helped at least a few of the young adults in that gym in New Athens clearly see the dangers of addiction on Friday.
Just the change in perspective families that shared their stories with us for the book wanted.
Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Profits from the sale of We Lost Her and Heartbroken are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center.
We Lost Her, available at this link on Amazon.com
Heartbroken, available at this link on Amazon.com
Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member
“We Grow Stronger Together”