When trying to break down some borders, I forgot about the ones right in front of my face.
For most youth groups, Jewish or not, the nation is divided into regions. Kentucky happens to be a region called Central Region of United Synagogue Youth (CRUSY). But here is the joke: almost every city in our region is over three hours away by car. And the punchline is that there are chapters of our youth group just over the border in Tennessee that we do not even know. And those chapters bear a striking resemblance to ours, especially the chapter in Nashville.
So to fix that problem, I simply called the Nashville chaper and asked if they wanted to get together for a weekend. And after months of anticipation and a flurry of phone calls and emails over the past two week, USY Without Borders was born.
A bulky white 15-passenger van carrying ten kids and me made its way down to Nashville this past weekend to spend time with another chapter. I was worried that the kids wouldn't mix. That each would stick to their own, circling around like wagons under attack.
I was only partially proved correct.
The high school kids that came down with our group took to their group like fish to water. The weekend was filled with dinner, song, jokes, intense conversation about topics that would make parents nervous, line dancing, lasertag, pizza, food, study and fellowship. By the end of the weekend, plans were already in the air for when they would be coming to visit us.
But even with the arbitrary border breeched, there was another border that I did not give enough consideration before the trip. For the latter half of the school year, our chapter promotes the 8th graders to USY (i.e. high school) status. Five of our ten travellers were 8th grade boys. Their counterparts in Nashville only become USY at the end of the summer before 9th grade.
The world that 8th graders occupy bears little relation to the world of high school. I could see the border between then throughout the weekend. At time, it would give way. Others times, it was a steel wall. The Nashville youth advisor and I spent a good portion of our weekend making sure that everyone had a good time. We could tell that they felt left out, teased and made to feel less. Luckily, a lot of the weekend, gave them time to hang out together as a group, which is good, because they are the future of USY in Louisville.
If I could to it over, I would have included their 8th graders or left ours at home. However, I think that those five boys did come home more part of USY than before. Maybe when they are the older bunch, they will think back on this weekend, and treat those new 8th graders differently.
Nah, probably not.