Even as recently as a year ago, I was not aware of an organization called the “National High School Model UN”. It simply was not on my horizon. With the advent of my granddaughter’s becoming a freshman at our regional high school, my horizon has changed, broadened, expanded - -become much more colorful.
I have just returned from being a chaperone for 13 young people from our high school, my granddaughter included, as they attended the 2014 NHSMUN conference in New York City. They were among 3600 high school delegates from all over the world, convened for a “learning through simulation” experience, becoming a model UN for 4 days.
For 4 days, it was my honor and privilege to visit simulated UN committee sessions as these amazing young people debated issues, wrote position papers, created resolutions, amended those same resolutions and worked together to get resolutions passed.
In the process I observed them learning how to work cooperatively with total strangers, how to share diverse views and opinions and work toward mutual understanding in the service of a higher good. I watched as kids took on the identity of the countries they were assigned to represent at the UN – learning about serious issues from the perspective of their assigned countries, learning how to respect opinions they did not agree with and how to find diplomatic ways to move the debate forward. In the committee sessions I observed the building of alliances on many levels - - from the level of simulated political and diplomatic debate to the level of more experienced kids helping the “newbies” learn how to function in their committees –across the lines of their “national interests”. I watched kids gain confidence in finding their voices to speak in behalf of their assigned countries in debate - - going from rapidly beating hearts and sweaty palms to being able to state their positions clearly and with confidence over the course of the conference.
A highlight of the weekend was observing our 13 delegates, ranging in age from 14 to 18, as they interacted around some very difficult issues in a briefing session with the permanent representative to the UN from Uganda, our high school’s assigned country. I sat, astounded, impressed and proud of the way these young people were able to maintain a mature and open receptivity as they listened to His Excellency’s gracious briefing on the country they were assigned to represent. I was even more impressed by the way they were able to take the information he gave them and weave it into the debate when they returned to their committee sessions.
I came home high as the proverbial kite, feeling renewed hope that if the world is going to be in the hands of these kids in a few more years, we might just be OK.
As the kids cut loose on the dance floor on the final night of the conference, I was reassured that they are very normal, energetic teenagers who just happen to have exceptional interests and abilities - - and a burning desire to make the world a better place.
After a really good night’s sleep on my return home, I went to morning worship this morning and was blown away by a brief response to a “Canticle of Covenant Faithfulness” that was used in the service. It was an adaptation of Isaiah 55:6: “Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face from me.” It brought to mind the ancient story of Moses on the mountain with God and being forbidden to see the face of God. It also brought to mind the great teaching that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God. The two notions are paradoxical. On the one hand, human beings may not look directly upon the face of God because the power of such a possibility could mean annihilation. On the other hand, we are to recognize the image of God in every human being we encounter.
As I sang the response to the canticle, I had an overwhelming realization that the “high” of the Model UN Conference came from knowing that I had seen the compassionate, wise, intelligent, loving, reconciling, passionate face of God revealed in 3600 physically beautiful, energetic, funny, intelligent, wise, thoughtful, generous, compassionate and passionate faces of the youthful delegates to the conference.
The ancient prophets often prayed “How long, O Lord?” as they anguished over the state of their respective worlds – wanting to know when their great God would intervene and make things right. For a brief moment in time, in the company of 3600 kids, I was privileged to know that the answer to the age old question is right in front of me - - hidden in plain sight.