When it comes to getting to know your neighbor, just ask the youth of Gooding United Methodist Church in Idaho how to do it.
Recently the church youth launched a YouTube channel “The Good People of Gooding” to hear the stories of people in their town and build connections.
“You get to interact with so many people and learn about their daily lives,” said 11-year-old Natalie Huerta, whose first interview was with Gooding Mayor Jeff Brekke.
“It lets people know we’re (a church) open to everyone as a community,” she said.
Rev. Amanda Gayle Reed, pastor of Gooding UMC in this town of 3,600 people in southern Idaho, introduced the “Good People of Gooding” idea to her youth group for multiple reasons.
She wanted to teach her TikTok-dance-challenge-loving youth group about positive ways to use social media, modeling the interviews after the “Humans of New York” stories that were started on Facebook years ago.
Reed wanted to help some of the youth get out of their shell a little bit and get comfortable talking to new people – though Natalie, admittedly, has long shed whatever shell she had. Natalie said none of her friends could believe she’d interviewed the mayor.
“It’s fun to have bragging rights sometimes,” she said.
More importantly, though, Reed said with all the vitriol that has taken hold of this country – and in local communities – when it comes to politics and the pandemic, this is the chance to showcase something positive.
“It just felt like we had to have something we could have unity in,” Reed said. “Community building is an important part of our church life.”
Jordyn Gonzalez said they felt a little shy about talking to someone they didn’t know. But then they heard they were going to interview a woman from church who rescue cats, they were on board.
“It’s a good project for me to start socializing,” Jordyn said.
So far, the group of four, which also includes Ashlynn Turner and Nathan Wright, have interviewed the mayor, a cat rescuer, the owner of a publishing company, a local hospital CEO and a Gooding newcomer. They talk about where they grew up, what got them into the work they’re doing now, and so many other aspects of the person’s life in the 10-minute episodes.
“The purpose is to get together with the community,” Natalie said. “If they’re not explaining their lives, you’re not explaining yours.”