In early 2012 I met with someone I greatly admired, she was a school counselor at a local middle school and from what I knew of her, she was a world changer. I had just moved up to Spokane to follow my dream of attending a Spokane University in order to obtain my Masters in School Counseling. I was inspired by my own experiences growing up and knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of youth. As we chatted, this role model said to me, “I think you should become a teacher instead – you’ll make a greater difference, in the way you desire, through teaching.”

I walked away from that coffee shop confused. Had she not heard anything I had said? Did she not hear that I had moved to this new city to become a school counselor not a teacher? A month later I applied to a single university, instead of the three I had been planning on, and was accepted into the Masters In Teaching program a few months later.

You see, what I wanted more than anything was to be someone who could change the lives of students. I originally thought school counseling was the only way to do this – because you know, they talk about the feelings, the crisis’, and provide resources and help to students. But as she had said; I’d make a bigger difference in a classroom than I would as a counselor. You see, while counselors do talk about feelings, support students when they are in crisis and provide valuable and needed resources to students (and teachers) they don’t have the capacity to be with students each and every day. Teachers, while educating students, spend a lot of time getting to know their students. They learn their strengths, their weaknesses, and their stories. Good teachers are able to differentiate and empower students, through education because they develop genuine relationship through daily interactions with their students while teaching them.

Over my, what feels like a long 27 years, I’ve come to notice that there’s an underlying desire within each of us to be world changers – it’s not just me. We seek this deep-rooted want to make a difference, to affect change, to matter. This comes out in a variety of ways and is unique within each of us – often times it is reflected in our careers, how we spend our time, or what we share on social media.

I believe full-heartedly that if we are seeking to affect change in the world any other way than genuine relationship – we will go nowhere. Jesus himself sought after deep relationships in order to be a world changer. He listened to people’s stories, shared his own, and connected them to God’s story.

In our community we must strive to connect with those around us on a genuine level. Now as an introvert with anxiety, I’ll be the first to admit it sounds very daunting. But the reality is, if you can give yourself enough grace to be vulnerable, to simply be yourself and invite others into your life, your story, then genuine relationships follow.  

While I’m not teaching at the moment, the thing I value most about Youth for Christ’s model of ministry is that it’s based upon relationship. A relationship between God, yourself, and others. One in which you’re allowed the freedom to be vulnerable. You’re encouraged to share the grace and redemption in your own life with those around you. You’re invited to accept others as they are, in an imperfect state. And within this model, lives are changed. We ourselves are changed. The world is changed.