Photo by Kiley Flynn

Last Wednesday, 15 teens from around the U.S. and U.K., accompanied by caring adults from their communities, arrived in Tennessee for the first Laws of Life Youth Summit. They shuffled into the college campus meeting room that would become our gathering space for the next few days.

No surprise, the kids were skeptical and shy that night, unsure of themselves and each other. When I predicted that by the end of the Summit they wouldn’t want to leave each others’ sides, I got some serious eye rolls. But, lo and behold, this was the scene on the last day: hug huddles, teary eyes, and promises to reunite wherever, whenever, however possible. They couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. It broke my heart and filled it up at the same time.

This group’s ability to connect so deeply in a matter of days proved to me the power of vulnerability and authenticity. Our workshop content was designed to help them open their hearts, build trust and gain confidence in their own gifts. They did it – and it was awesome to witness their walls crumble and hearts crack wide open. But it took one brave person to open up first, and then another and another – until it felt safe enough for everyone to do the same, to share their true selves. Hopes. Dreams. Challenges. Fears.

Early in our time together, one darling girl sheepishly shared how much she adores Greek Mythology. As her peers shared more common interests – like sports or writing – she worried she’d sound like a weirdo. But once she said it, two other teens revealed they loved Greek Mythology, too. She beamed! The same thing happened over and over: it took one person brave enough to show their tender places – the difficulty of divorce, the reality of living with chronic illness, the loneliness of low self-esteem – for the walls built up around the others to come tumbling down.

Magic happens when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable – and allow others to be, too. {Just ask Brené Brown.} If I want the world to be a kinder, gentler place, I have to be the one brave enough to get the ball rolling. Truth is, we’re all weirdos. We’re all dreamers. We’re all broken.

So, let’s each be the one in our neighborhoods, in cubicle land, on committees, in book clubs to be brave enough to speak the truth and make compassion contagious. It only takes one spark to start a fire. Are you in?