Monthly Archives: September 2013
This weekend I will be participating in a Walk-for-Life with a non-profit called Mothers Against Violence. As I prepare for the event as one of the vendors for their block party, I thought about the message that I want to share with the parents and their children. This event will be taking place in an urban community where violence is commonplace. While this event seeks to bring awareness to the violence that is rampant in our local community and all over neighborhoods in the country, I want to bring a message of hope.
Violence is such a general word with so many meanings. In this day and time violence is everywhere. It is evident within private homes, in our schools, the workplace and of course, the media (you didn’t think I’d leave them out did you?). Violence equates to murder, abuse whether physical, emotional or verbal. It can be domestic or international. And by the way, yes, bullying is considered a form of violence. I’m not only referring to the nationally recognized issue that schools and communities are so diligently fighting to end, I’m also referring to the type of bullying that takes place daily among adults in the form of domestic violence or other forms such as intimidation in the workplace.
Since my passion is to make a difference in the lives of youth and families, I’ll stay in my lane and focus on the connection between character and violent behaviors. I believe that character begins in the home with the primary caregivers. Whatever you are doing and saying, trust, that if there are children in the midst, they are watching and learning. With that being said, the example has to start with the adults. We all know this, but how many of us pay close attention to our response when someone treats us unfairly in the checkout line, cuts us off on the highway or inflicts some type of injustice upon us? Our precious resources, youngest citizens and future leaders and caregivers behave based upon what they have seen and know from their day to day experiences. If hitting, yelling and cursing are behaviors that they see and hear regularly, chances are they are going to do the same thing. I’m amazed at parents who behave this way at home and then act amazed, even dumbfounded when their children begin school and in a matter of days they get a call from the teacher reporting poor behavior. This behavior did not just show up at school. In most cases, the behavior was already going on or manifested as a result of what the child learned from the only examples they have ever known.
During this upcoming event my goal is to remind parents and children that violence is real and that the different forms of violence can be reduced by making positive changes in their daily behaviors and attitudes. Establishing values in the home, teaching and modeling respect, responsibility, honesty and fairness and other values are ways to start helping children develop character. Spending time with the family conversing about potential dangers and exploring solutions, engaging in necessary safety drills or role playing in order to learn conflict resolution skills are other ways that youth and families can reduce violence. And might I add that sometimes it’s the caregiver who needs to be taught or re-taught some basic character virtues in order to produce a non-violent, compassionate, intelligent, talented and productive life that influences their children. As I join Mothers Against Violence in the Walk-for-Life this weekend, share information and have a little fun in the process, I hope that families will leave with a sense of empowerment to take back their homes, communities and schools.
In my quest to teach character, I’m challenged daily to live with integrity. Since I started my youth program, Maximizing Character, it seems that my own habits are now in the spotlight. I’ve had to take inventory of my own life so that I’m careful to model strong character to my own children and students. I’ve noticed areas in my life that definitely need some tweaking. Taking time out of my schedule to volunteer my time or give to a cause instead of simply talking about it is one small step I’ve had to take in an effort to reorder my life and develop my own character. Another challenge I realized was that I have a tendency to neglect my health by eating too many sweets, making excuses for not exercising and slacking on the sleep…so much for practicing what I preach to the kids.
One of the things that I focus on in my home and program is connecting one’s character to their health and wellness. I teach my students that part of being a responsible person is taking care of their bodies, eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol. I explain to them that a healthy lifestyle helps not only their physical but also mental health and that a healthy lifestyle wards off destructive diseases while boosting one’s energy and overall attitude and mental health. Despite my knowledge of the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and the advantage of having a husband who is a personal trainer, I find it challenging for me to go walking or to visit the gym just a few days a week to prevent illnesses that plague my family such as diabetes and high blood pressure or to simply boost my energy levels. As a result of my poor choices (and hypocrisy) I have experienced a life full of “F’s”…Fatigue, Frustration, Fatty Foods and just plain Fed Up.
I recently challenged myself to refocus and to work towards getting this area of my life back in balance. I recognize that a healthy lifestyle is essential for the life I want to live…stress-free and energized to learn and to work effectively. So I’ll keep you posted on my progress from time to time. My hope is that I continue to be a good role model for my children and others, having a teachable spirit and maximizing my own character as I pursue my passion to promote good character and healthy lifestyles.
On Monday, September 9, 2013 I had the privilege of facilitating the Kappa Cardinal Cheerleaders’ Girl Talk group. My friend, Shawnie, and founder of Parents Against Bullying invited me over to teach some character-building skills and focus on “girl” issues. The cheerleaders, middle school aged girls who were full of energy, greeted me with open arms. Immediately upon my arrival, three or four girls, who had arrived early, engaged me in conversation about school, asked me what was in my gift bag and showed me some of their cheering moves. As more of the girls arrived, they were quickly called to order by cheering coach, Ms. Shawnie. She reminded the girls of their manners and encouraged them to be on their best behavior, using words like excellence and respect to help them stay focused. Although these girls were young enough to be my daughters, I attempted to engage them by meeting them where they are in this critical stage of life. Remembering issues that I dealt with during that age, I dived into their world to find out what was plaguing their minds and hearts.
We opened the session with an ice-breaker that allowed us to get to know one another. The girls were chatty but quickly engaged in the activity, hands raised often to share their experiences with the group. I was surprised and elated by their feedback as I had previously been told that they were a hard bunch to please. As we transitioned into the main lesson of Girl Talk, Ms. Shawnie had to remind the girls of her expectations again…the girls seemed to be enjoying the activity so much that they were beginning to have their own conversations about the topic. I challenged them to draw a circle which was identified as their camera lens. Then brainstorm and write about some issues that they were personally dealing with. Afterwards the girls wrote down their best qualities inside the “lens”. I encouraged them to focus on the inward portion of their lens and not allow the external “stuff” to dictate their lives. The girls had no problem sharing some of their “issues” as Ms. Shawnie and I addressed them, encouraging them to do the right thing, providing them community resources and validating their worth.
Facilitating the Girl Talk group was a refreshing change for me. Having grown up in a house with all females and now being the only female in my home, it blessed my heart to be able to connect with the young girls and focus on ‘all things, GIRL’ again. The girls communicated and behaved like a little sisterhood. They conversed together, played together and ate a meal together and even prayed together. They even summoned me join in on their closing prayer and chant, deeming me an honorary member of the cheering squad. The camaraderie that was felt and shared during our time together was great.
A girl’s life, in this day and time can be filled with a lot of “drama” as several of them pointed out to me this evening. I thought, if they only knew how blessed they are and that many of their ‘sisters’ across the globe suffer each day to survive and thrive, they would embrace their lives and circumstances, making dreams come true and pulling up others alongside them. For an hour though, it was refreshing to know that these girls put the drama aside to bond, learn new things about themselves and build their self-confidence. After encouraging the cheerleaders to maximize their character strengths and confidence at all times and in all settings, I was touched as several of them informed me that they were leaving and reached out to hug me goodbye. I had come to be a blessing to these intelligent, beautiful and impressionable young girls and they graciously blessed me.
A person’s character can be found in every aspect of their life. Whether they are conducting business in the board room or hitting the books in the classroom, the essence of a person will manifest itself, good or bad. When I think about the many lessons that I was taught at home, among family members, from teachers and community leaders, I clearly remember learning about how to treat others respectfully, use kind words, help the elderly and serve others humbly. Today, I often get the feeling that somewhere, down the line, those lessons were lost in the last few generations.
Today I see and hear things that cause my heart and ears to hurt and my insides to cringe. I hear vulgarities, for example, not only coming from the media or as I walk past an angry adult on the street, but I also hear such language from the mouths of those seemingly coming from the womb. I have watched a generation leave the rich lessons they were taught behind, in search of the next episode of “Drama”…Housewives, Dancing Stars or Singing Idols and Voices. Television and computers have become our children’s caregivers and social media have become our BFF. I have witnessed the youngest of our generation disrespect and shame us, only for us to later enable them to live a life of false entitlement and ignorance. What happened to manners? What happened to the “Golden Rule”? What happened to the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who strategically took the time to teach wisdom, justice and service and demanded respect so that these valuable gifts could be passed on to the next generation?
Each of us is challenged daily to maximize our character as we navigate through the day to day issues of life. And it is not always easy, given the problems we face in our ever-evolving, global society. Nevertheless, it is not enough to just focus on ourselves and forget those who rely on us to show them how to fulfill purpose and destiny in life. My challenge to anyone who reads this is to assess yourself and then take a look at your circle of influence or potential sphere of influence. How can you create positive change? Do you possess strong character? If not, why? What steps can you take today to improve your ability to be a better parent, friend, caregiver and citizen? In what ways can you be caring, respectful or trustworthy? When was the last time you made time to share a word of wisdom or teach someone else, in particular, a youth or young adult how to do something or to say something that brought value to their lives?
Make a commitment today to first, develop your character, your inner being, reflecting your best qualities and then lift up the life of another by sharing your gifts of wisdom and experiences. I am confident that your heart will reward you.