After facilitating, researching, and observing youth involvement efforts for 15+ years I’ve identified a number of points throughout our lives where we each individually connect with the world around us. By “connect” I mean feel drawn towards and within something or someone else. In my own life, my deep connections include my home, my families’ homes, and my friends’ homes. For other people, deep connections might happen at church, school, or their jobs. For young people in general, the list gets long pretty fast:
- Community center
- Friends’ homes
- Playground/basketball court
- Afterschool programs
- Extended family homes
- Childcare provider
- Farmer’s market – see the comment section!
Now, the variation between “deep” connections and others is wide: you could consider a variety of factors, like emotions and feelings; sentiments; commitment; and investment. And that itself is not an exhaustive list. There is so much to consider, particularly about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion… We have to consider the shades within those factors that have to do with authenticity and motivation. After all of this is ingested, we have to start considering the reality of deepening every person’s connections within their respective communities.
All that said, the questions surface:
- Why do we need every young person to feel deeply connected throughout their communities? Who is “we”?
- How do we know that young people do not already feel deeply connected to their communities?
The short answer is 1. We can’t afford to have any less than every young person connected; 2. We is all of us, including your mom, your neighbor, and you, and 3. Everyday the news is filled with reems of stories about the evil and hatred that fills our world – and I’m not talking about the anti-youth crap, either.
I truly believe- and I know many others who do, too- that young people are truly the answer to these problems. And I’m not talking about simply handing any kid you see the keys to the car and inviting them to drive, either. I’m talking about a rapid, intentional, authentic, responsive, and authoritative commitment to connecting young people to their communities.
Speaking about social change Robert Kennedy once said,
“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”
We need the qualities of youth – including their literal selves – in order to move us from the morose crappiness of these days to the hopefully bright light of tomorrow (read that book!). Next time on the Freechild Blog I will talk about how to move from weak connections to deep connections. Stay tuned.