November 16, 2006

Moral and Ethical Guidance

YMCAs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, and FFA

Today I am in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to speak at a fundraiser for their Sussex Family YMCA. I am honored to be doing this because the Director of this YMCA is a wonderful friend by the name of Terry Rasberry, who used to be the Director of the YMCA in Yakima, Washington, a town where we used to live and teach school. I am glad to be doing this because it is an opportunity to help sustain one of the most important institutions in America… a YMCA!

“Why would I make a grand statement like that?” you ask.

Well, let me ask you a question in return, “Would America be a better place if every American child was a member of a YMCA, 4H, FFA, or was a Boy Scout, or Girl Scout?” Well, let me tell you I ask that question of people all across America, and the answer is always a resounding, “YES!”

It is pretty simple really. All of those organizations have at their core, guidance in moral and ethical behavior. All of those organizations have the courage to stand for honesty, integrity, hard work, faith in God and country, and other important beliefs like fellowship and belief in family and friends! Each of those organizations set high standards for our children.

In my case, I was touched deeply by 4H, FFA, Boy Scouts, and most of all I was affected by my experiences at our local YMCA and at Y Camp. Those activities affected me deeply! In those organizations the values I was taught at home were reinforced very strongly. Those organizations were the community that raised this child!

But here is my concern; all of those wonderful organizations a dying out across America. The ones that are still doing their great work are struggling to stay afloat and meet their needs financially! I know that the “Y” here in Rehoboth Beach is a wonderful influence in this community simply because I know Terry Rasberry! I know what the “Y” was like in Yakima and without ever visiting this “Y”, I am certain this one is like the one Terry directed in Yakima. I certainly hope that they meet their funraising goals this year!

Wholesome Activities

During the time that I was in Yakima, I ran a program called Seizing Opportunities for the local Juvenile Court. For more that six years, almost every child that was involved with Juvenile Court was required to take the Seizing Opportunities Course. In that course I was trying to get kids to hold positive ideas in their heads about how and where they spent their time. I knew that I could send them to the “Y” for wholesome activities. In many cases Terry would make it possible for these kids and their families to join the “Y”. Many were “scholarshipped” by Terry. (I got the feeling that some were even funded out ot Terry's own pocket.) Those kids would begin hanging out at the “Y” for the Saturday Night Live program rather than out on the streets on weekend nights. The SNL program was simply a wholesome place for kids to go on weekend evenings where they could spend their time playing games, listening to music, swimming, and hanging out with their friends in a place where they were safe.

In addition to being safe they were in a place where they could seek guidance and counseling from a trained staff that they had grown to trust through the weekend activities that were so much fun. It was an atmosphere of moral and ethical guidance and it was a fun place!

Reinforcing What You Teach at Home

The “Y” changed so many kids in Yakima... but it was always struggling to keep its’ doors open because community support was hard to come by. Terry always found the money some way, and that “Y” was there for the kids of Yakima. But, in so many towns and cities I see those great organizations closing their doors simply because their communities did not support them.

I know what that is like because the "Y" in my hometown closed due to lack of funding when I was in 9th grade. I know personally how abandoned we kids felt when the "Y" closed it's doors. It had been a place where we all learned to swim, play sports, and most importantly where our "Gra-Y" and "Junior Hi-Y" groups met. At those meeting we had fun but more importantly, we discussed important issues of growing up with our great leader, Alden Esping. (Read about how those discussions changed my life in my book Parenting with Dignity.) It ripped our hearts out when our "Y" closed and Mr. Esping left town.

Support Those Organizations!

If there is a YMCA in your town, donate to them! If you cannot donate money, donate time. When a Girl Scout comes by yiour house selling cookies, buy ten boxes. You can give them away as gifts and each gift will help that organization stay viable. Go to your local Boy Scout leader and offer to scholarship one boy to Scout Camp. Attend a livestock sale for 4H or FFA and buy an animal to meet your families needs and support those organizations with your food dollars.

It Takes a Community to Raise a Child

It does take a community to raise a child. Help to build a strong community where you live. Help those organizations that reinforce what you are teaching at home!

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