The story goes that street performer Jesse Rya was doing what he does best, playing guitar and singing. Jamie Maldonado of Dallas was headed to the grocery store when he took notice of Jesse, liked what he heard and started to video him. All of a sudden another gentleman stops, deciding to join Jesse with some fill-in vocals. Another young man throws out a vocal as he is walking through the door to the shop. He decides to take a step back join the now duo and eventually freestyle. Next thing you know the video goes viral, and is currently closing in on 6 million views. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch below:
Here is what I see in this video: Participants, spectators, and those that pass by. There are some who join the music, others who watch it and a couple of those on their way to somewhere else who merely keep going. It got me thinking about a conversation I had last week with a couple of friends. We got to talking about youth and creativity. Some students will tell you they “aren’t creative,” instead they are athletes or scientists or on the “math team.” Others will tell you they don’t have a place to belong at all.
By the time our children hit the ripe old age of 8 or 9 we begin to make them choose “who they will be.” They need to focus for the sake of some distant college scholarship. They need to focus in on dance or soccer or music lessons. By the time they reach the bitter age of 12 they begin to be told they are “too old” to learn soccer or the flute. The world has moved beyond them and they need to accept they just “won’t be that.” It used to be there was a freedom until High School to find your niche, but not so much any more. As a parent it saddens me that my 7th grade son is told he can’t learn lacrosse, because the competition has already moved past him. He isn’t wanting to be a professional, the sport looks fun.
We do this to our students unwittingly as they enter our youth ministry. Instead of looking at their heart we categorize them based on personality. The kids with the most charisma become leaders. The “artsy” kids make a mural for the youth room. The one kid who plays guitar is the worship leader. We are teaching some to participate, others to watch, and the rest that they don’t have to stop and belong at all.
None of the men in this video thought stopping and joining in would bring them their 15 minutes of fame. As a matter of fact they have denied the accusation that this was a “Jimmy Kimmel stunt.” My favorite part is the rapper at the end says, “Thanks I needed that today.” What did he need? To be reminded that he is creative, that he enjoys it, and stopping for a second to remember this is alright. Even as he is wearing his work clothes that are obviously from some blue-collar type job.
I think it’s time for us to take a step back and re-evaluate the way we look at students. Do we want them to be participants, spectators or passer by’s? God himself said that it’s man that looks on the outside while He is looking at the inside. God is creative. (Have you seen a blobfish, rainbow or tree on a spring day?) We are made in his image. Something in all of us is creative. It just might show itself differently in each unique individual. Let’s make space for our students to find their small “jam session” where they can join in. If we don’t I fear that far too many will think that all they can do is stand on the sidelines.