Monday, November 29, 2010

How Can Youth Workers Encouarage The Next Leslie Nielsen

Anyone that journeys the social media networks knows about celebrity deaths mere instants after the event occurs.  Yesterday was no exception as the world said goodbye to Hollywood funny man Leslie Nielsen.  I grew up with more of an affection of the spoof movies with Nielsen than I did for the originals that they were portraying.  You may be wondering why I would bring the topic of Leslie Nielsen on a youth culture and resource blog.  The answer is simple.  The world needs more men like Leslie Nielsen.  We as youth workers need to encourage humor as a means of addressing social justice.

The world that many young people live in is a perpetually dark place.  They face things that are unthinkable by most.  From where I sit I can see many teens passing me on their way to or from school.  There are not many smiles and the darkness is extremely evident.  I know some of the stories.  Parents that have told these kids that they are unwanted and worthless.  Families that have split up and these teens are constantly stuck in the middle.  Relationships that they pour their lives into that turn out to be abusive and destructive.  Things that break my heart.

There is humor in the midst of this, but it mirrors their dark world.  I often am disturbed by the things that my young friends consider worthy of a laugh.  However it is usually cheap humor that rips into another persons character or sexuality.  These things may cause laughter but they do not restore the soul.  I often try to explain this difference to them, but I'm afraid that they influence me more in this area than I do in them.  I seem to have a knack for a sarcastic sense of humor.

There are a few kids though that are the shining light in the midst of these dark worlds.  These kids are typically refereed to as the class clowns and while they are loved almost universally between all the cliques of a high school campus.  The authorities in their lives tell them then need to "grow up".  I hope that instead of discouraging their gift that we would help them to nurture it and make it better.  For they have a gift of humor that can go farther into the depths of humanity and help those in the darkest places feel as though they are, even momentarily, being rescued.

Even though Leslie Nielsen was 84 years old when he died, from what he portrayed on the screen he was still young at heart.  Isn't that something that we should desire to help young people experience in their own lives?  Leslie Nielsen, I surely hope you rest in peace.
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