So were the sentiments expressed by Scarlett O’Hara in the movie, “Gone with the Wind.” She was speaking to the hopeful energy that compels us all to not give up on ourselves or those around us.
A wise man once proffered, “Life has so many different chapters, and one bad chapter does mean the end of the book.” Again, knowing that while the present moment or circumstance may seem insurmountable, with persistence, patience and effort, most difficulties can be surmounted is a source of inspiration and energy.
As adults, life teaches us through experience that often there are steps that can be taken or people around us who will help us to regain our sense of equilibrium. For many young people, this important experiential knowledge is ahead of them and as of yet unlearned by many. It can leave some young people very vulnerable when crisis or protracted personal challenges arise.
Sadly, without the opportunity to experience and triumph over adversity, some youth will conclude that their current circumstances will not improve and they will give up on themselves. As adults, you can be the bridge for young people between giving up when hard circumstances arise and seeing hope and carrying on for another day. You can share your own story or the story of someone you know, someone that you helped or how someone helped you to survive a tough situation.
I met a young man when he was nine years old and he became friends with my wife and I. When first I met him, he would not look you in the eye and he spoke but a few words during our visits. I learned that he had been hospitalized several times as a toddler from abuse dealt to him by a parent. He could not remember any of it; he did know that he trusted no one and that he was angry. Over time, I made it a condition of our coming together that he must talk for about fifteen minutes. He could talk about anything and these conversations became more and more revealing as we went forward. We talked about why he was making bad decisions for himself and although he was failing many of his schoolwork courses at the time, it was clear that he had an inexperienced but bright mind.
We also talked about why he was so angry and it became clear to him that he had plenty of reason to be angry but that remaining in a state of mind where anger was the driving force would predict his failure and misfortune.
He was able to discern that when you are angry and acting out you repel people and that when you are rational and reasonable with people most people will want to support you and be in your company.
To his good luck or fortune an older couple also offered their support and his relationship with them became extremely important. He learned a great deal from both of these wise and gentle people and because of them, more than any other factor, this once angry, defiant, out of control little boy grew into a well-reasoned confident young adult. He became a serious student and worked hard to do well in school. He pursued new interests and excelled in a sport.
He graduated from high school with honors and went to a rather prestigious private college. While at college he met a lovely young woman who became his wife. Now, he lives in a beautiful home and both he and his wife are professional people that command rich salaries.
His life could have turned out very differently as sadly, so many young people’s lives do that have no one to support them our care about them. Now as a man in his thirties, he has shared with me how important the relationship that he had with my wife and I was and how thankful he was that we and the elderly couple where he lived had taken the time to share our lives with him. Of course our lives were enriched by him greatly and his success is a great reward that we share in through his generosity to this day.
As adults, there are so many opportunities to encourage young people. You don’t have to be a teacher, a coach or a pastor or priest to encourage young people though all these people are important community fixtures that do support and inspire youth. The only qualification needed is a kind heart and the desire to help. It doesn’t cost money it only takes a bit of your time.
Notice the youth around you and offer your support to them by remembering their names, smiling at them or complimenting them for whatever their individual accomplishments might be. The words of encouragement or kindness that you afford a young person may mean the difference between them carrying on or giving up. Be that bridge for them until they can acquire their own experiential knowledge when life deals them a tough blow. Imbedded in these experiences are great rewards for the giver because when we help others out, especially in tough times, it feels very good to the giver.
Remind the young people that you encounter that “One bad chapter does not mean the end of the book.”
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net.