Election day…Ok, I get a lil emotional at times when I think about our elders and the things that they went through for us to have the opportunities we do. I feel honored that they dealt with so much not just for themselves because they wanted us to have better. I feel a strong sense of obligation to our youth and the next generation.
I loathe when people complain about our kids and neighborhood and at times will challenge them by asking what are they doing about it. We can sit here and criticize them or we can use our own gifts, talents, and time to dedicate to them so that they have better. And as of now, I look at our schools, our communities and I often feel like we are failing them. Our parents, grandparents…went above & beyond and endured many things they didn’t have to. And here we are, and I will acknowledge even myself, comfortable, lazy, not feeling like stepping up, when I see the things around us (ie, violence, lack of education, lack of opportunities) that our young people and communities are dealing with.
Yes, I do work with children and teens, but I can admit, I can DO more. Honestly we all probably can. Things such as:
– taking time to assist a child reading that you know is struggling in school
– volunteering at schools or community centers
– taking time to talk to a group of young people on the bus simply to engage their thoughts and possibly inspire them
– using your gifts & talents to give kids a skill or teach them something new
– having an intergenerational discussion to close the gap that exists in our communities
– starting or being a part of a female or male mentoring group
– helping a struggling single parent out that you know is falling short or about to lose a kid to the streets
A week ago I participated in a discussion with a group of 7th graders. The topic for them was ‘Is it important for them to know and care about the issues of their community and voting?’ They had a lot of thoughts about Obama and Romney. They shared that they thought they were important and what issues mattered to them. It was encouraging to hear their passion and even knowledge on the two candidates and their stances. Though one thing that was shared was that some felt that based on the things that they see in their community, nothing was really going to change. These kids on the south side of Chicago hear, see and are affected by violence just about every day, and so it was discouraging to hear their hopelessness.
Then I asked them 2 questions. I asked who could name 3 people off of ‘Basketball Wives’. The hands flew up. Then I asked who could name 3 alderman or their state senators. No hands went up. Honestly there was a time I couldn’t answer the latter question, even as an adult. But I was reminded of the challenge for me is to do what I can to educate and inform our youth so they are prepared to use their voice and act on their behalf to make change in their communities. I expressed to them that we all tend to look around waiting for someone else to DO something. Expecting Obama or Romney or even other political figures and leaders to DO something or make a CHANGE, like they are some magical individuals that can do all the work. I told these 7th graders, that looking in the mirror and out into their faces, those are the ones that make change. We all can and must play a part just like our ancestors did to impact the world around us.
For many of you who already do sooo much in our community, you are a blessing and I want to encourage you to keep doing what you do. With that said, I pray today that you get out and vote, but then think about what next steps you can do to be the CHANGE you want to see…and the ACT on it!
** Featured photo: A few years ago I asked my dad, who was good friends with slain Civil Rights activist, James Chaney, to come speak to my group of InnovaTeens, Girl Scouts, & community youth.