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Marsh Hudson-Knapp

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When I was little my parents were deeply involved in the Methodist Church in Bennington. It offered several strengths that were extremely important foundation stones for my life.

Early in my life my Mom developed Multiple Sclerosis, which left her unable to walk or even stand. Our church and her pastor worked with my mom and other faith communities in Bennington to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society that helped people with MS. Most importantly they showed us that people of faith walked beside us in our struggles.

For me as a little kid, church also provided a whole community of people who loved me. The people in our church knew me and took an interest in me and were happy to see me. I came to believe that I was somebody, and I was loved and valued. They helped lay a solid foundation for my life still 70 years later.

Growing up as a person who was valued, I felt deeply shocked to hear the results from the 2021 study of at risk behaviors of middle and high school students in Bennington. Dare Channing of the Alliance for Community Transformation told us at a recent Rotary meeting that more than half of our young people at MAUHS, that’s about 600 of our high school students, have no sense that they are a person of value.

Then I read a very evocative profile by Michael Albans in the May 3rd Banner about a young woman who, after a long journey though substance misuse and numerous suicide attempts, finally discovered, “I was worth something.” When I read the article, I started to cry. Imagine, I thought to myself, living 25 years believing that I am not worth anything. Would I be depressed, empty, lost? Would I need to escape from the pain of living in such a sad world?

So then I tried to imagine 600 young people in Bennington, my own neighbors, all feeling worthless. My head and heart began to sink.

How privileged I am to have a faith community telling me I am precious! Many of us who are members of a spiritual community experience this foundational life need: knowing that God/Life/our community cherishes us! There are many ways people of faith do this.

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The pastor of my church, Mark Blank, reminds all of us every week, “You are a precious child of God” worthy beyond all measure.

A friend of mine, Dan Lucy, is a retired guidance counselor. He is constantly stopping to tell people of all ages and stations of life, “I value you!” “I respect you!” “You are a gift to me and our community.” No wonder people treasure HIM. He is feeding people the bread of life: love and value.

Jeannie Jenkins and Deb Larkin have started a foundation to turn around this youthful epidemic of worthlessness: the Bennington Sports Foundation. They seek out the most vulnerable children and provide them with opportunities to belong and be involved with their community in all levels and kinds of sports. (www.Bennington SportsFoundation.org)

One day Jesus was completely drained. He was so exhausted by criticism and people’s needs that he needed to be alone. But some parents were searching for him. They wanted their children to experience the love and strength Jesus brought to people. They found his disciples, and they told the parents to go away. But Jesus overhead them and scolded the disciples. “These young people,” he told them, “are the heart of God’s family.” Then Jesus laid his hands on each one, spoke with them and prayed to remind each one how precious they are.

We who are people of faith, varied as we are, have a life and death power with the children in our community and neighborhood. We may feel tired and worn like Jesus. We may, like the disciples, be tempted to turn our backs on our precious young people.

But friends if you have ever had someone believe in you, encourage you, value you, you know how crucial it is for each young person to know they are somebody. And not just somebody, but the heart and soul of our community and the leaders of our future!

Please, find YOUR way to build up the precious young people of our towns!

Marsh Hudson-Knapp finds rich community in the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council, which coordinates this column. You can email Marsh at MRHudsonknapp@gmail.com.


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