At the end of last year, I was one of five Juniors who taught the sixth-grade class baptismal studies. I got baptized when I was twelve, but I never finished the classes. Because of this and my background in the Adventist church, my approach was slightly, er, different than that of the other teachers. While we were told to stand above the students and speak out to them, I opted to sit at their level and ask a lot more questions (they didn't always answer, but that's beside the point).
There was one kid who sat in the middle. He kept his hat on and was known for asking "too many" questions. In fact, before I even went inside, I was told not to encourage him to talk too much because he would take up the whole time with an irrelevant story. Sure enough, as soon as he got a chance to speak, he jumped into a spirited tale about what his weekend had been like. While his teacher and the head pastor tried to bring the conversation back to the topic at hand, I smiled knowing that at least one of us seemed happy to be there and happy to tell a story.
On my second and last day of teaching, I was talking about baptism in particular and how it is a choice we all should make for ourselves. By this point, all of the students knew that I had been baptized on my birthday and that my main reason for wanting to be baptized at the age of twelve was so I could be baptized on my birthday. About halfway through the lesson, the kid who kept his hat on and asked "too many questions" raised his hand. Grateful for a chance to listen to someone else's voice, I called what I hoped was his name (two days is not enough time to learn fifteen names). He opened his mouth, closed it again, and paused. When he opened his mouth again, out came a question that almost reduced me to tears (and we all know how much I hate crying):
"What if you got baptized when you were younger and it was your parents' decision? Can you get rebaptized?"
The head pastor started to say something, but I promptly stood up and started talking. I try really hard not to interrupt people with my own thoughts, but as this was a question I myself had asked and I felt it was important to answer it (also I could tell what the pastor was going to say and I wanted to avoid that). I looked at him and said "I've asked myself that same question so many times. I got baptized when I was twelve but looking back on it now I honestly wish I'd waited at least a couple more years. Not because I didn't think I was ready, but because I felt like I had learned so much since getting baptized. That's the thing, though, getting baptized isn't the end, but the beginning. You can certainly get rebaptized if you want *cue head pastor's mouth at mid gasp*, but you can also simply make the decision to start over. You can make that decision anytime you want." (by the way, when reading what I said you may want to put some pauses, "ums", and deep breaths to make it more realistic).
The other pastor that was there interjected and basically restated what I had said, so that was a nice form of validation for me. Even so, the main thing I've taken away from this experience is to listen to the people you're told not to listen to. They probably have millions of good ideas and billions of things to say that you could connect with. It's highly possible that, like me, you find someone going through the exact same thing you were going through a year ago and you'd never have been able to say anything had you not listened to them in the first place. We can all gain something from hearing what other people have to say, even if it's only a recap of how their weekend was. But no matter what it is, and whether or not we can connect to it or help in any way, when the twelve year old asks a question, we should listen.