Seismic Shifts – Can You See Them?

Seismic Shifts – Can You See Them?

Seismic shifts are defined as small changes and adjustments by tectonic plates, or the plates that move under the earth. Tectonic plates shift at a rate of approximately 2 to 5 cm a year. To put it in perspective, that is about the rate that your fingernails grow. But collectively over time, multiple seismic shifts lead to earthquakes. Some are small and barely noticeable. Others are large and massively destructive, such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 that killed over 225,000 people and displaced millions. To quote Jonathan and Thomas McKee in their book The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, seismic shifts are “small changes and adjustments that cause a massive transformation.”

Culturally, we have experienced many seismic shifts over the last 15 to 20 years. A few examples as given by the McKees:

  1. Family structures have changed. My husband teaches 4th grade. In his classroom of 24 students, he has only 4 students who live at home with both their mom and dad. Everyone else lives in a varying family structure.
  2. Technology has advanced. Obvious as this one may sound, let me remind you that Apple only released its first iPhone in June 2007.
  3. Smaller community is more common – According to the 2009 Pew Internet and American Life Project, the average size of an American’s core network of close friends has dropped by 1/3 since 1985. Some studies suggest that loneliness is at an all-time high, affecting as much as 45% of the population.


Now, take a step back and think about the youth you work with every day. Not only have they been impacted by these cultural seismic shifts, but they are also impacted by personal seismic shifts as well. Seemingly small events, some obvious and others not, can result in a seismic shift in behavior. We have all seen it – the barely noticeable but definitely occurring movements or the big explosions that catch us off guard. It could be a comment on social media, a picture shared without permission, the gain or loss of a part-time job, a change in the status of a long-term friendship. Even expected transitions such as starting high school, or the added freedoms that come with learning to drive or having friends that do – these all result in shifts.

How aware are you of the small shifts? Do you see them when they happen? Do you look for them after the destructive quake has happened to see if there is a cause? Seeing the small shifts and processing them is instrumental in working with teens.

The other aspect of seismic shifts is the reality that we can positively impact teens by purposefully having small, but meaningful interactions. It’s as simple as noticing when someone seems like they are having a bad day or remembering to ask about a situation that they mentioned previously. It could be providing a resource they might shrug off today but grab onto down the road. It’s showing up to an event or listening well to a concern. The opportunities to create shifts abound if we are looking for them.


Do you see the seismic shifts in the lives of youth around you? Are you purposefully loving well and creating seismic shifts of your own?

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Manager. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.
Helping When It Hurts

Helping When It Hurts

I just got back from serving with LiveBeyond in Thomazeau, Haiti, where poverty, starvation, sickness and Satan can be seen at every corner. While I was still processing this level of hurt and pain, I came home to the injustice of the Orlando shooting.

Hurt has so many different faces.

Hurt looks like scrubbing a tiny Haitian head that is covered in ringworm. Hurt looks like hundreds of people mourning the loss of loved ones to gunshots. Hurt looks like students feeling unsafe at their schools because of bullies. Hurt looks like shoeless feet traveling miles to receive medical care. Hurt looks like a nation crying out after acts of hate and prejudice. Hurt looks like a teenager struggling after his parents go through a painful divorce.

Hurt can be overwhelming and sometimes it is easier to do nothing rather than wade into the unknown of pain. However, if there is anything that I have learned while in Haiti, it is that we cannot simply sit back and stay quiet. If not us, then who?

But where do we start? How can I help people that are miles, states or even nations away?

There isn’t an easy or fix-it-all answer, but hopefully these can provide a good starting place for how to help in the midst of hurt:

Focus on the person in front of you.

Are you far away from Orlando or Haiti? Unless you have time off and money for a plane ticket, that is probably not going to change, but you can love on that neighbor who is also struggling. Or you can tell a friend who feels targeted how sorry you are. You can take food to someone who has recently experienced loss, or volunteer with a local organization.

When there is a tragedy or when the hurt and pain is too overwhelming, start by loving the person directly in front of you. Don’t freeze. Don’t turn around and run. By focusing on one person at a time, you are making a difference in a manageable way! Once you have made that person in front of you feel loved and heard, move on to another person and do the same for them!

Find ways to encourage from afar.

Technology has made it incredibly easy to connect with people in other states, countries or continents! If you can’t stand in front of someone who is hurting, find ways to encourage them from where you are. Here are a few ideas of how to help from your own home:

  • Spend time in prayer for those that are hurting. For example, print off the names of those who died in Orlando – spend time specifically praying for their families by name.
  • Send letters, Facebook messages or care packages. Find those who are affected or maybe those who are living in areas where they are interacting with hurting people and encourage them with words and thoughtful gestures!
  • Support organizations who are helping those in need. Even if you only have $10 a month, you can partner with an organization and make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting.

Take up the cause of the oppressed.

“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 22:16

Since I am a Christian, the message of this verse is very clear – if I want to know God, it is my job to defend the poor and needy.

If you are not motivated by Christianity or a sense of higher calling, you can still stand in the gap for those who have no one else to defend them or speak on their behalf.

This does not mean that you need to go on a 2,000 word Facebook rant to shame those who act out in hate, but instead think about how you can offer your thoughts, prayers and encouragement in a short, positive post. Maybe defending their cause means bringing hope and understanding into a conversation of condemnation.

For me, it means talking about the organizations and people I love (like Teen Lifeline & LiveBeyond) whenever possible. I can share the struggles and challenges of teenagers and the people of Haiti. I can bring awareness and recruit others to join their cause.

So, I am asking you to join me. Let’s not sit by and retreat in times of pain! Instead, let’s try to help in the midst of hurt. Do you have any other ideas of how to help in times of pain and hurt? We would love to hear them!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.