Corporal Preston Hollis of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office joined us at Hillsborough United Methodist Church-Temple Terrace/Thonotosassa youth group this week for our lesson and a round table discussion about police, current events and how to be part of the solution.
Our youth come from mixed backgrounds. Based on personal experiences, they have both positive and negative feelings about law enforcement. We were not certain how open they would be to talking to an officer.
The outcome was amazing. One beautiful young lady who, based on her life experience, was very hesitant (to say the least) about this program. At the end of the discussion she raised her hand.
"I don't have a question; I have a statement,” she said. To paraphrase her comments: When you came in, I didn't want to talk to you, or listen to you. I didn't like any police officers. Thank you for showing me you're not all bad.
“Jennifer, thank you again for having me last night,” Hollis commented afterward on my Facebook page. “I am overwhelmed by the support and appreciation. You worship with a great group of young people. I really enjoyed meeting with them. I look forward to other opportunities...thank you for your dedication.”
In this world, especially in social media, it's easy to spread negativity with the click of a button: so many times our news feed is filled with it. Positivity exists, but unfortunately often we have to search for it. It becomes overwhelming.
Many times our perceptions become reality. Whether it's a personal experience, something that someone tells us or something the media "shows" us. I see it both in kids and adults...one little bit of negative breeds and multiplies unless someone makes a choice to stop it: A choice to be positive, a choice to learn and a choice to move forward. There is an opportunity to learn and grow in every situation. We just have to open our eyes and hearts to find it.
We ended the service with a youth-led prayer for Corporal Hollis.
Through God all things are possible.