Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Connecting the Dots #1

I can remember the days of my youth when it did not take much to entertain me. My mother would come home from work and surprise me with a new book of puzzles to satisfy my inquisitive mind. Unlike many things from those days, these puzzle-books have not changed much. They still contain, the color by numbers, the basic word-finds, crosswords and my personal favorite (at that time) the dot-to-dots. I use to enjoy watching my paper transition from a page full of scattered dots into a nicely organized picture. .

When I look out at the world today, I see many things much like an unsolved dot-to-dot puzzle. There are so many people living lives disconnected from one another. Each person appears to represent a single dot on a page that each dot must coexist on. People have adopted and embraced the motto "it's a dog eat dog world". The thought process is that one does not affect the other and that each is self-sufficient.

Well, I beg to differ.

The truth of the matter is that my world affects your world just as much as yours affects mine. We are all intertwined and ultimately need one another in order to successfully move into and create a more positive outcome for ourselves and our youth. The current state of our community is full of examples. You don't have to travel far to examine the evidence. Just read through a few of the blogs that are available out here in cyber world. They are full of articles that recap the injustices that play out day to day. I've seen videos of a man being hit by a car as witnesses stood by to watch as if they were viewing a scene from a movie. Headlines are filled with women being raped, beaten and murdered and children are killing other children. This list could easily go on and on. Our future seems to grow more and more dim.

When I originally started this post, I intended to touch on multiple ways of “connecting the dots”. As I progressed, I realized that this topic was way to vast to squeeze into a single post. So, I’ve decided to break it down into a series.

Let’s begin, by instigating some action, shall we? How do we connect the dots? First we must acknowledge that something is wrong and be willing to do more than talk about it. I would like to suggest that we (myself included) get more involved.

Dot #1: Our Youth

There are little girls/teens/women (both young and old) in need of guidance. They need to be taught to see past the images that are being force-fed to them by TV and music. They need to be taught to love and respect themselves. They need to learn their true value so that they will not allow anyone or anything to treat them less than they are worth. Their self-esteem is in desperate need of healing. They need to learn to dream for what they may now deem as unreachable. Sometimes, all it takes is the consistent sound of "you are beautiful", "you can do it", or "you are worth it". They need to be inspired, empowered and educated. If we don't start reaching out to our girls, we are going to have a world full of women teaching their children the same self-destructing behaviors and values that nobody took the time to unteach them.

We need to shed our self-titled team jerseys and join together to form a new team that will support, teach and heal one another. Let's reduce the amount of time we spend competing against and judging each other. Nobody is perfect. But we are all qualified to teach somebody something. Because none of us are without faults, mistakes and lessons that can be passed down and used to redirect a young mind.

One day we will look to these girls to guide the future that we will still exist in. If we do not take a moment out of our life to strengthen them and teach them to unite, what would that future look like? A house divided can not stand. We have enough to deal with then to be forced to worry about “friendly fire”. We are the backbone of our community. So, we need to learn to stand together and be strong enough to help bring it together. And when our backs grow old and tired, we need to have a group of strong, willing, educated young women that are prepared to step in to take our places. Let’s show our girls something different.

As we focus on the condition of our young women, let us not neglect to consider our young men. During a time that single-mothers are prominent in the world. Little boys are in desperate need of mentors. And I must say that there is a major shortage. I am a single mother. I have both a boy and a girl. My son will be entering into the teens this year. I am not naive to the fact that there is only so much I can teach my son about being a man. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I can not teach him about what a man is and what it takes to be a “real” one. But, although I may face and deal with some of the same situations he will face and deal with, I deal with them as a woman. I can’t address his issues from the male perspective that he will view things from. This is where a male role model would be ideal. Thankfully, his father is now in the picture and is doing all he can to be there for him. But that was not always the case and not everyone is that fortunate.

Approximately, 4 years ago, I placed my son into a mentoring program. When asked, I informed the coordinator that I wanted a black man to mentor my son. Now, don't take that the wrong way. But, I wanted someone that could relate more to the life and issues that my son would face. To my dismay, I was informed that there would be a THREE YEAR waiting list. In TWO YEARS, my son was matched. The problem is, that our-boys-need-help-right-now. They can not continue to wait 2 and 3 years for someone to step up to the plate and take an interest. They need someone other than a band of women teaching them how to be accountable and responsible for their actions. They need to learn how to respect and appreciate women. They need someone to combat their definition of “cool” and show them that they can get more. They, too, need to hear “that image is not you or what you stand for”, “you CAN do it” and “you deserve more”. We need to teach our boys how to get out of their own way and strive for the excellence that is theirs to claim. We need to show them how to stop collecting trash and start collecting things that add value to their lives—things like a great education, “real”, self-respecting, strong women, and a life’s purpose. They need to learn to be the leaders and protectors of the community. If we fail to do this, what would our future look like? How easy will it be to control the fate of our community?

Let’s rebuild that “village” that it took to raise our kids….literally. Get with the parents of your children’s friends and form your own “village”. Develop a circle of parents in your neighborhood and at the schools and empower them to respectfully hold the children of that group accountable. Allow them to redirect and teach them. As a young mother, I foolishly had the motto: “If someone has a problem with my child, they need to let ME know and I’LL deal with it”. To an extent, I still feel this way. But, my son quickly taught me the true value of having a “village”. I became EXHAUSTED with the back and forth trips to the school and daycares. My mother passed away when my son was 2 years of age. So, my village was a village of one. I quickly began to rethink my “brilliant” theory. I say this part to say, that there is no shame in knowing when you need help, there is no shame in seeking it and there is definitely none in accepting it. Don’t let pride get in the way of progress.

I know what some of you are thinking..."What about the parents? They should be handling this!" But, my question is this: "If parents are just as lost as the children, what is to be done?" Who will reach out to them?

We may not be able to reach everyone. We may not be able to completely change our world. But, we certainly can make a decision to work to make it better. Let’s commit to work towards connecting the dots so that the picture of our future can be more appealing than our current scattered state. We CAN do it; but only if we WILL.

Battlefield Challenge:

* Expose a child to a new experience. Show him/her something that will force them to look outside of their box.

Bonus Challenge:

* Do something nice for a stranger for no reason at all.

Share your experience here. I'd love to hear about them.