Today I made a Mormon teenager blush.

Two of them were walking down the street in my new neighborhood, wearing matching slacks and sweaters. My first thought was that they were students at one of the nearby Catholic high schools. Then I remembered it was mid-afternoon on a school day.

Not students, then. Missionaries.

I smiled and said hello as they crossed the street to the corner where I was waiting. They returned the greeting, then hesitated as they were about to pass me. One stopped and said, “Actually, can I give you a card?”

“Of course.”

“It’s got the website for our religion on it.” Pause. “We’re missionaries.”

I took the card from his hand, looked into his face, and smiled again. “Good for you!”

Maybe I was a little too enthusiastic. He blushed. It wasn’t a huge blush, but it doesn’t take much to tell on a redhead, poor guy.

It’s difficult, being all of 18, committing yourself to being something the world doesn’t appreciate, building something nobody understands.

I get that, more than those boys realized.

I’m a Baha’i. I’m not a Mormon, and I never have been. We’ve got some very significant theological differences, although many of the resulting values are the same. But when I see people, especially young people, actually acting on their core beliefs about the world, struggling to fashion it into something truly worthwhile, I can’t help but want to encourage them.

You’re doing it right.

And even if you’re doing it wrong, you’re doing it right. Because in ten years, you’ll be me, at 28, working for the same goal, but with even greater clarity, with more tools available to you, and more learning accomplished than you ever imaged you would do. And in 20 years we’ll both be older. Wiser, I hope. With still more to learn, and still more to teach.

When I was 18, I put on a uniform and served with my heart and my hands. I wish the same for every young person. Take a chance, be the change, live your faith, whatever that belief may be.

Even when our beliefs differ, I cannot help but believe we will be a better world for it.

So, thanks for the card, my missionary friends.

And good for you.

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