Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Community?

It takes a village to raise a child. The phrase has been around for awhile.  We have all heard it.  We suspect that many of you actually agree with it!  Parents recognize the influence of peers, schools, and other groups that interact with their children.  School personnel know that parents, the faith community, sports clubs, and others affect the beliefs and the attitudes of those they teach.

We have all heard stories of how a single, caring adult can profoundly change the trajectory of a child whose life appears headed for hard times. We encourage people to reach out and engage with the young people around them and to develop the types of meaningful relationships that change lives.   But, even if many of us do so, we realize that some of our young people will still be left out.  Fortunately, all is not lost.  We know that even small actions taken by many people throughout the community can also make a difference.  In fact, they can make a BIG difference.

For example, in our local community young people tell us that many adults seem to only notice them when they have done something the adults disapprove of.  Changing that perception can lead to a profound change in the experience of youth.  If we all made the effort to say something positive to just one young person each day (the cashier at the store, the kid mowing your lawn, the boy who sits on the same bench in the park each day),  our youth would have a different experience of this place they call home. 

There are many examples of the powerful positive effect of the collective influence, versus that of an individual, on youth development.  If we can come together and intentionally address some of the less positive conditions that exist here, we can change the trajectories of many children. The real power to do so comes when we act together... as a community.

The reality is that we all influence the young people who live here, either directly through our actions, or by our inaction.  Some do so in small ways, and others in big ways, but we all do it.  Another reality is that we are not actually raising children at all.  We are raising the adults of the not-so-distant future.  These young people will be your neighbors, your doctors, your plumbers, your community's leaders.  The best way to build the community that we want to have in the future is to start positively changing the community that we live in now. 

We work at the community level because we know it can create significant change for all.  We believe that everyone can and should play a part, and that everyone has a stake here.  Together, we can make our community a wonderful, supportive place to live...for people of all ages.

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