There were three different groups of travelers walking along the same path at different times. Each of the groups of travelers carried offerings with them.
The first group of travelers came upon a tree that they recognized as poisonous. Because they recognized that the tree contained some poisonous elements, they motioned for everyone to go far around the tree, which they did. The first group of travelers offered avoidance.
Days later, the second group of travelers encountered the tree, and they too, recognized that the tree contained some poisons elements. This group saw the tracks of the first group that went far around the tree. The second group of travelers decided to tie a blue cloth to the tree to warn future travelers that the tree is poisonous. The second group of travelers offered labels.
A little over a week passed when the third group of travelers came into the vicinity of the tree. From a distance, the third group of travelers saw the tracks that went far around the tree, as well as the blue cloth warning them that the tree is poisonous. The third group recognized that the tree contained poisonous elements, but after much prayer and contemplation, the third group of travelers decided to make camp around the tree. The tree became the center of their camp, and they shared an entire season with the tree. They learned that the poisons the tree contains can be transformed to healing medicines when cultivated with the care, patience, and the courage only love can provide. The medicine this tree produces cures sicknesses that there was once no cure for. With honor they approached the tree, and with equal honor they parted ways with the tree. Before they left, the group sang a thank you song and tied a red cloth under the blue cloth, marking the tree as whole and Holy – a significant reminder of the truth that Heaven and Earth are forever connected by the sacredness within all living beings. The third group of travelers offered relationship.
And so it is with our youth and young adults: We can avoid them, label them, or we can spend a season with them and cultivate relationships in love, compassion, truth and honor that will transform any poisons that have been imposed upon them back to the healing medicines they’ve been endowed with by the Creator.