A Thirty-Year Skunk in Sophomore Palace

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Most of us spend adulthood trying to erase the misdeeds of youth. Sure, High School had its good times, but they were hardly fair compensation for four years of acne, social awkwardness, and the thing that happened at prom.

Our teen years shape us.

For some, those years supply a heritage of laughter, friendship, and purpose. But for most, the years between twelve and twenty are filled with disappointment, heartache, and embarrassment.

Which is why I am so fantastically proud of Ben Redmond and his team at The Hub, Jackson’s premiere venue for teens. They have created a headquarters for adventure, ambition, and dreams. Every week, Thursday through Sunday nights, they are leading kids to live better, healthier, lives.

I’ve visited The Hub several times over the last three months, and typically the kids are a little suspicious. I have grey hair and my pants fit, both of which identify me as a foreigner to youth culture. “Look at the skunk,” said one videogame paragon to his cyber-sidekick, “I bet he’s, like, fifty.”

I’m thirty-five.

But the point remains that these two kids felt comfortable enough with each other and with their surroundings to know who fit in and—most importantly—who it was for.

The Hub is for them.

So when I ventured into the GaGa pit, feeling like Mad Max in the Thunderdome, and got bashed in the belt with a rubber ball, I was glad. Because The Hub isn’t for old men.

It’s for teens.

And when I showed up at the Scream-O concert, wondering idly if there would soon be Tickle-Me-Scream-O dolls for my kids, I was glad. Because The Hub isn’t for dads either.

It’s for the kids.

Because no other place else is theirs.
Because they don’t often feel like they’re safe at home.
Because school is hardly the place to relax and feel loved.
Because they need somewhere where they can be valued, appreciated, and allowed to throw balls, play games, and go deaf.

I grew up in a great family, surrounded by a loving community. But I also grew up poor, in a rough school district. Some of my childhood friends are serving time in jail. One of them leads a Biker gang. Two are on the run for disability fraud. Two others got hooked on heroine from smoking laced-joints at a party and still need prescriptions for methadone.

But I was spared that kind of tragedy because of a local church and a concerned youth pastor. Vince McLaren sought me out and made me feel like I mattered. I often feel like I owe him for helping me do well in school, marry a super-lightning hot woman, and find meaning in Christian service.

Ben Redmond reminds me a lot of Vince. Ben is the Director of The Hub and the Student Journey Designer at Westwinds Community Church. I’ve known Ben for nearly eight years and seen him take risks on troubled teens, breathe life into broken families, and exhaust himself demonstrating just how much people matter to God, to our church, and to him.

I’d like to say Ben is one of a kind, but he’s not. He’s surrounded by guys and gals just like him. Cory and Kendall Grazul, Emma Shafer, Alex Brigham, Randy Sottovia, Mike and Laura LaFrenier, Nate and Mel Evans, Darcie Burdick, Taylor Woodruff, Andrew and Selina May, Brooke Pieske, Chad Cecil, Bill Burch, Justin Roberts, Jen Kempf, Leanne Yamakawa, Lisa Wooden, Crissie Bacon, Dan Globig.

I could go on.

The point is that these people give up their time, their energy, and their hard-earned cash to remind the teens of Jackson County that youth doesn’t have to be a synonym for regret, that adolescence isn’t something from which you have to escape, and that everybody matters whether they’re twelve or twenty, black or white, rich or poor, faux-hawked or grey-haired.

And if you ever doubt that, come check out The Hub on 1825 Spring Arbor Road and see if you don’t get shot, balled, or blown away by teen spirit.

Dr. David McDonald,
Westwinds Community Church

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