By: Steven Christoforou
This summer, I was a counselor at Camp Saint Paul, and I finally witnessed the reality of youth today. I began to see how difficult it is to be a kid or teenager. This realization came into greater focus during a recent Boy and Girl Scout retreat at St. Basil’s Academy. During a discussion, I heard all sorts of very difficult questions, on everything from points of theology to more practical issues like how to approach dating.
It’s hard trying to be a decent person. I’m twenty-eight years old and everyday is a challenge. But I realize something: it’s really hard being a kid. In fact, it’s much harder than I remember. Maybe it’s because it’s so much harder to be sheltered from the world now: it’s one thing to tell a kid not to cross the street when all he has is his bike, it’s quite another when cell phones and computers can connect us with anyone anywhere at any time. The more engulfed in society we become and the less sheltered we become, the further away our lives are from Christ.
It’s hard enough trying to be a decent person, but it’s even harder when you haven’t had time to develop a sense of yourself. I’m twenty-eight years old and I’m still trying to figure out my place in the world. I didn’t have any better idea in college. In high school, I was clueless. Ditto for middle school and earlier.
I’ll be blunt: society wants to tear us down. The world wants us to be consumers, drones that use the right gadgets, wear the right clothes, and eat the right food. The world wants us to drive a wedge between us and our families and friends, because the less we rely on people for our identity, the more we rely on things.
But we’re persons. And persons don’t relate to things; we relate to other persons. I’m not talking about the meaningless or temporary relationships we can easily get sucked into. I’m talking about love, true love, the sort that causes parents to sacrifice everything for their children, or martyrs to give everything up, even their lives, for Christ. And Christ, as the truest person, must be at the center of our lives. Without Him we can have no relationships. Why is Christ the truest person? Because of the perfect love He shares with God the Father. In Christ, we’re lifted out of the death and decay and pettiness and temporariness of this world, and we get to partake of the perfect and eternity of God.
It was so inspiring this summer to here how my campers appreciated their time at Camp St. Paul so deeply. It was a time, they said, to get away from fashion and peer pressure and the emptiness that tries to swallow up our lives. It was a time for them to get closer to Christ and each other. Life was so much simpler at Camp, because life was so much more real at Camp. And it was more real because Christ was at the center of it all.
In Christ, we can find ourselves. In Christ, we can find each other. The world can only promise us distractions to take our attention away from the loneliness and emptiness of an impersonal world. We are raised in this world that convinces us that the materialistic and superficial life is the right way to live. Yet Christ promises us that, as He was raised from the dead, we can be raised from the dead, and that we can live in communion with God and all creation for all eternity. He doesn’t promise us things. Rather, He promises us the greater gift He, or anyone, can give: Himself, in perfect love.
Steven in a second year seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is from St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Astoria, New York
The Simple Life
By: Steven Christoforou