On a recent day…
I met with a grandmother of a 4th grade student whose mom lost custody due to drug addiction and whose father who is nowhere to be found. Grandmom is doing her best, and her grandson is getting good grades and making friends. She wants the best for him and will do whatever she can to support his success.
During the elementary school boys program, I had to stop the games and lessons numerous times when friendly competition turned to disappointment, anger and claims of unfairness. More than a few students wanted to quit on their team and stop contributing their talents and ideas. Older students still in A4Y visited our football game and demonstrated leadership, teamwork and mental toughness. They at one time were just like these 4th grade students who struggle to finish a game.
When dropping students off we saw three situations where frustration, disappointment, hurt, anger, and conflict led to violence. Two adults were arguing and a crowd of people were running to see what was about to go down. The 4th grade boy I was dropping off said he would be ready to dodge and duck if someone started shooting. As we traveled to another community, we saw the light pole decorated with beer bottles and balloons where two months earlier a young man was shot in the face four times. The last community we dropped students off at was filled with the noise of a man who was very upset and walking down the street saying he was going to kill someone. This all happened within 5 minutes.
In the midst of such stress, trauma, rage, and violence you wonder how youth could ever learn peacemaking, forgiveness, self-control, empathy, optimism, love and resilience. Why should we even try to nurture personal, social, emotional and spiritual growth? It takes a lot of energy to fight against the tide of the culture and society when the numbers seem to stack up against you: only 4 of the 15 students in the group have a dad at home. The kids see so many men who have quit on their families, churches and communities. Why do we show up to work the next day? It is because there are great kids created in the image of God with talents and gifts that are needed in our communities and there are loving adults like that grand mom and others who love their children and want the best for them. In the midst of darkness there is goodness and light, signs of God are everywhere, and we are a part of that by his Grace. Just another day in Acts4Youth.
By Kevin Good, Acts4Youth Executive Director