My name is Tony Williams and I have been a volunteer for Schenectady City Life since 2014. Over the last 6 years, I have had the privilege to serve hundreds of kids in Schenectady. Creating memories and moments that I will have with me for the rest of my life.
One of the experiences that stands out to me the most is when we took a group of teenagers to Kingdom Bound, a Christian music festival in a theme park on Darian lake. We got to experience three days of live music from the biggest Christian artists, a variety of different speakers, seminars and of course go on some really cool rides. We stayed right outside of the theme park in a 3-bedroom Cabin with a fire pit in the front of it. Staying in the Cabin and having fun at the theme park allowed us to spend good quality time with each other.
The moment that stands out the most to me on this trip was on the very last night when we gathered around the campfire. I was talking with one of our teens whose name was Tyler. Tyler was a popular kid with an interest in music, cars and sneakers. We talked about his interests, school life and his home life. The longer our conversation continued, the more Tyler began to open up to me about the struggles he was facing in his everyday life. The struggles at home, pressures of wanting to fit in at school, temptations he was trying to avoid and how the recent death of his Uncle was affecting him emotionally. While I listened to Tyler share these details with me, I could see on his face how the pressures of the conflicts in his life were weighing him down on a daily basis. I could see pain and guilt from missing out on his Uncle’s funeral and a kid stuck in the turmoil of his everyday life. So, I prayed for Tyler, reminded him about the Love of God being with him even in the hard times. I gave him some advice on how to deal with guilt. This conversation really connected us.
After Kingdom Bound, Tyler and I continued conversing with each other and he would message me about the progress he was making on dealing with the guilt. It’s moments and conversations like the one I had with Tyler that remind me of why I volunteer for City Life. I think about the thousands of kids in my city like Tyler. Kids who are feeling hopeless, guilty, and lost. They feel the daily pressures of the world and feel like they are on their own in facing them. I get to be a role model, friend, and a listening ear. A reminder to them of God’s love and that they are not alone. I get to build real life connections that make a difference in the lives of my community. Volunteering with City Life can sometimes be challenging, heartbreaking, and really hard work; but my calling from God is to serve. If all we did was serve 1 kid in this community, all of the hard work would be worth it because of the potential for them to grow in a relationship with an all-powerful God who knows and loves them.
*Names have been changed