Brothers in the 13 and up age group are prepared to lead Salat. They are given a target date and Brother Vell diligently works with them, one by one, and when needed two at a time, all in an effort to get them ready for their day.
As adults, especially those of us who have led congregational prayer outside of our homes, we may not recall the butterflies which most certainly flutter about the bellies of these young untried souls. Nervous, as they attempt to ready themselves against the judgement, sure to come, by their peers should they stutter or forget. But, if they are successful they know they will be looked at differently, even if only slightly.
They want to succeed. They want to be seen as responsible, dedicated, and trustworthy. They want to be looked at as role-models, even as they feign disinterest in leading the prayer.
A 14 year old brother calls the Adhan and Iqamat; a 16 year old steps up for the first time to lead the prayer, with Brother Vell at his side. The young man makes it through one, two, three, and four rakat, performs the Tasleem and ends the Salat by leading the 40 plus, students and instructors in Al-Fatiha.
A resounding "Takbir!" reverberates through the room, issued by none other than Brother Vell; we all respond with "Allahu-Akbar!!" I stand and inform everyone that this young man is now going to be seen differently; we're going to have greater expectations of him...he's stepped into the role of a leader now.
I tell him, "I'm proud of you," and he manages to get a "thank you" out past the smile he's trying to hide. It's obvious to all the instructors, especially Brother Vell, that this young man is also proud of himself. He's taken an important first step...he has good reason to be.