What about the Children?
I’ve often wondered just what it would take to see a change in a world that has obviously turned more hateful, negative, and unloving.
I believe that until we recognize that children are the Alpha and Omega of all things we would ever hope to be, or gonna be, our lives will always have a dark cloud over our heads. If there will ever be a change for the better we must first ask ourselves:
“How is what we’re doing or not doing going to affect our children? How is it going to affect the way they see the world?”
We all know that children require unconditional love, patience, and healthy touch; therefore, we must recognize that the common denominator between all of us is that we all were once children who depended on love and the gentle touch of a patient heart, as well as hands that equipped us with love and security. A child that lacks love and security will only manifest as an adult who lacks these two vital components that are important for a happy and loving life.
If every child was equipped with love and security, the ripple affect would be amazingly positive: children securely attached to loving adults will have the best chance at becoming loving adults, and they would be much less likely to leave suffering in their wake.
Keeping children in the forefront of our minds when we make decisions about the world and what we promote, will undoubtably cause a major shift in how we live. After all, many traditional cultures have long held that decisions must be made with many future generations in mind!
A Love Deficiency & Low Self-Worth=No Change
I have worked with young people and adults of all ages, ethnicities, and from every socio-economic background. Worked with them in prisons, treatment facilities, churches, schools, and community organizations. A common thread connecting them all I define as “a love deficiency.” Whether they were wealthy or poor, black or white, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, immigrants, LGBT, etc., they all desired the same thing: love. Many, if not most, suffered some form of abuse—verbal, mental, and physical including sexual abuse; not to mention emotional abuse, abandonment, adoption issues, and living in foster homes were some of the other issues troubling them.
What I came to notice is that they all had feelings of low self-worth or no sense of self-worth at all. They all wanted the circumstances of their lives to get better and they wanted to be accepted. I came to realize that it would be literally impossible for anyone to change their station in this life if they are not feeling worthy of change.
Inspiration, Motivation, & Empowerment=
A Mo’ Betta Life
Therefore, our mission as change agents should be to positively Inspire, Motivate, and Empower everyone we meet. That is:
Inspire, Motivate, and Empower them to think and feel that they are worthy of more. Hence: a “Mo’ Betta Life”!
During this process of inspiration, motivation, and empowerment, it’s imperative that we never make them feel shame, blame, or guilt for whatever reasons. For example, how many times have you heard someone utter, “If it weren’t for what you did (or didn’t do), things would be otherwise—it’s your fault!”
If we meet a student who has received failing grades, in order to help them succeed, we would need to first help them to think and feel that they are worthy of raising their grades in the first place! My experience has been that there can’t be anything more heartbreaking than not having a sense of self-worth—it’s like always having a dark cloud over your head, never to enjoy the sunshine.
“The Three Selves”
The “three selves” concept is a necessary component that must be addressed in self-development: your self-image, your self-concept, and your self-esteem.
First, people may see you or think about you in a certain way, but it’s more important how you see yourself.
Next, people may conceptualize your personality one way or another, but it’s more important how you understand yourself.
Finally, people may also have feelings about you, but it’s how you feel about yourself that drives you to change. You need to believe you are a worthy Being before you will start to feel that you are deserving of all the good this life has to offer.
This kind of positive change can only happen when people can honestly and wholeheartedly feel that they are worthy of more. I truly believe that, without a sense of feeling worthy, change for the better is almost impossible. Every child is a gift to the world and should be nurtured to believe it is so!
“Not everybody who is certified is qualified.”
Another thing I’ve realized is that everyone out there who has become certified is not necessarily qualified to do the important work of assisting others to transform their circumstances so a better life was possible. In my experience, many helpers cause more harm than good. For example, no one likes to be shamed, blamed or guilted, but many helpers or caregivers seem to think that’s an effective strategy. What a person needs is to be inspired, motivated, and even empowered to believe positive change can happen in their world.
There’s a big difference between providing service and providing quality service. We are all human beings who need to focus on being human. If we can’t honor one another’s humanity, how will we ever have a better life or even a better world?! Right now, it’s as though the USA is not the “united states,” but the “divided states.”
A Shared Vision
We need to have a shared vision on the idea of what a better life and world would look like.
Now, I’m not talking about a cookie-cutter lifestyle—we all have our own stories and every person’s story and uniqueness is important. Everyone has a story that should be shared in a way which wouldn’t have to bring shame, blame, or guilt into the equation. Regardless of your story, someone somewhere can benefit from your experiences whether good, bad, happy, or sad (and we’d love to have you share what you’ve learned here in the Forums!).
I can say for certain that my story of abuse, parents being divorced, my drug abuse, my significant other passing, and a year later my son’s passing, have all played a part in helping me and others to get to a better place. Although I have to emphasize: getting past the shame, blame, and guilt was a must for me to grow, and in order for me to share my life story. I can say without a doubt that if there weren’t people in my life who inspired, motivated, and empowered me to think and feel that I was worthy, my life would’ve most definitely been very different. People like my parents, teachers, and coaches who all believed in me.
On the other hand there were people in my life who also made me feel shame, blame, and guilt. My earliest memory of shame came when at home my parents got into domestic disputes; by domestic disputes I mean my parents would be fighting and the police would have to be called to our home and all my friends were aware that the police were at our home. I also remember feeling shame about where I lived: I was raised in Greenwich, Ct., where wealth was all around but we lived in an apartment complex which people would say “that’s where all the poor people live.” Honestly, I didn’t consider us poor, but the rich kids would always remind me in the ugliest ways. This caused me to resent my parents for putting us in such a shameful situation.
From Shame to Gratitude
I later learned that they were doing the best that they could, and today I’m very grateful. My way out? I decided to play sports and I was very good at it. I learned to play golf, tennis, and remember being on the Boys Club swim team and hearing over and over at different meets that “niggers can’t swim.” I was a good swimmer, not great, but placed first in many swim meets. I became a hero, people depended on me to win, so that’s where I put all my attention and energy. At the age of eight, I was awarded MVP, “Most Valuable Player,” on the Greenwich Giants midget league football league, and we were city champs that year. Although I must admit my football career started with a lie: in order to play midget league football you had to be ten!
The Heart of a Lion
At our awards banquet, our coach, Mr. Mobley, was giving a speech to our parents and supporters when I heard my name. He began to tell the story about how I had a heart of a lion, and then he mentioned that he always knew my real age! Then he went on to say that he would never be the one to ever put out a kid’s fire, dousing his confidence, and then he said he chose instead to help fuel it. Those words still echo in my head to this very day. My coach was instrumental in helping me to realize that I was worthy and deserving of a better life, and that I should never be ashamed of where I come from. I learned at an early age that love and kindness was paramount, regardless of who you are.
“No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent”
Unfortunately, that actions of misguided adults could sidetrack me from those positive lessons at times. On the one hand, my parents were adamant about how my siblings and I should behave out in the world, teaching us all the importance of healthy communication, such as saying “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Please.” I’ve always remembered hearing other adults talking about how well mannered we all were, and most times if a neighbor ever needed anything done they would always call on me or one of my brothers.
However, one time in school, the first day I reported to my new class and I took the first desk I came across. It was in the front row. The teacher started taking attendance and when she called out my name, I shouted “Here!” like I heard the other students do. I’ll never forget the feelings I had when she then told me to take a desk in the back of the room. All the feelings going through me, embarrassment, shame, hurt and then anger. I even felt my eyes tearing up. From that day forward, I was going to punish her by not doing any of her assignments. So, day in and day out, I would just sit in the back of the room and daydream.
Then the day came when I was summoned to the counselor’s office. She began to talk to me about my failing grade in that class. Then she asked me what’s going on with me and that class—she said, “How is it you’re doing so well in all your other classes but failing this one?” I felt that same feeling of shame I had felt before, I started crying she came around the desk with a box of tissue gently put her arm on my shoulder and said, “Let’s talk about it…”
After I collected myself I began to tell her my story, I saw her tearing up and she reached for a tissue and dabbed her eyes. She began to talk, and she said things I never expected to hear from her. She talked about history and how so many before me had it really bad but didn’t quit. Then she asked, “Do you know who Eleanor Roosevelt was?” I nodded my head and she went on to share a quote by Mrs. Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That alone inspired me, motivated me, and empowered me to think and feel that I was worthy—it was life changing, and I still think of that counselor. I passed that class with flying colors.
Lessons like those have helped me realize that nothing less than my best will do for me. As hard as things have been for me in my life, the one thing I’m very grateful for is to still have the drive to make my life Mo’ Betta. I know am still a work in progress, but, to this day, I also know and trust that change is a real possibility.
What Agents of Change Must Do
I stated there are a lot of helping professionals who may be certified but not in the least qualified. Working with people, and especially with our children, is perhaps one of the most important jobs one would ever do. Therefore, a person who does this kind of service must always remember why it is that they’re doing it. If it’s not to Inspire, Motivate, or Empower people (again—especially our children), to think, and feel that they are worthy of more, then they’re not doing their job.
I think it is imperative that all of us change agents work from a place where hard-won truths become common knowledge among us all. For instance, when I use the word Inspire, I mean “to fill someone with the urge to do or feel something.” When I use Motivate, I mean “to provide someone with a reason for doing something” or “to stimulate interest in or enthusiasm for doing something.” Finally, the word Empower is “to assist someone in becoming stronger and more confident.”
I remember when I was back in the ninth grade, I had this English teacher who would ask me every day if I had my homework; at first I would just ignore him. Then one day I was turned around on my seat talking to a girl and he announced out loud in the front of the class, “Hey, if you have time to be talking to girls in class, I’m sure you have your homework done!” I could feel embarrassment sweeping through me. I could hear the class chuckling and the girl I was talking to just dropped her head. I whipped around and started in on this teacher, calling him names and cursing him. He finally told me to get out of his class and go to the office.
While in the office, I was told to have a seat—the dean was on the phone and would see me right after the call. Minutes later, his door opened and he stood there and waved me over. “Have a seat,” he said, and he pointed to a table and chair in the right corner of the office. “So what’s going on?” he asked, while staring into my eyes. I began to tell him how every day this teacher seemed to want to pick on me. I was asked to explain and I began to tell him how every day this teacher would ask me in front of the class whether or not I had my homework done. The dean smiled, and simply asked, “Did you?” I started ranting and giving him excuses and he asked me again, watching me with a slight smirk on his face. I looked up at him and shook my head “No…”
He then ordered me to go get the missing homework assignments—I didn’t have to go far, I had all five of them in my spiral notebook. I was told to get started on the assignments. I was done in less than an hour. He looked up saw that I had finished and he waved me over to sit in one of the chairs in front of his desk. He then leaned back, locked his fingers behind his head, and then asked if I had finished the assignments. I told him I had. He then asked me, “Was there anything that you could’ve done to avoid this situation?” I knew the answer was “yes” and I shook my head up and down. He responded that he didn’t hear me, so I said “Yes!” a little louder. He again asked what I could’ve done and I answered “I should’ve done my homework.” He said, “Good! Now go to your next class.”
While walking to my next class, I couldn’t help thinking about what just happened. I realized for the first time that my teacher wasn’t the problem—I was. But what sticks out in my mind is the way the dean dealt with me in this situation. He definitely Inspired me, Motivated me, and Empowered me to think, and feel that I was worthy of more. He never Shamed me, Guilted me, or Blamed me!
I can also honestly say that how the dean had talked to me made all the difference:
He somehow made me feel as if I possessed something special inside of me and I needed to bring it to life. He asked me questions in such a way that I immediately knew what he was asking me. For example, he asked me if I didn’t do my homework, who’d be failing who? The teacher? Or me?
He said all the things I needed to hear, but the greatest part in this story? It was never about what he needed to say to me, but instead, how he chose to say it to me. This was in stark contrast to so many others who would tell me things about me and my life in the very worst ways.
Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. (Parker Palmer, in The Courage to Teach)
We need to start building and crossing bridges to get to where we need to be. We can never get to where we need to be if we keep building walls instead. I have often been asked how would one begin to build bridges, and I simply say, “Smile!” (I don’t think there’s anything greater than to cross paths with a complete stranger exchange a simple smile—it becomes magic!) There’s so much to smile about.
As an adult, I’ve come to realize that there is a child who will always live within each of us and, if we would only honor that truth, we would all be happier for it. Children are our gifts of truth—up until adults started projecting their insecurity and fear onto them. I believe when a child feels loved and secure their lives become authentic; the ripple affect is truth.
Imagine what a difference it would make to a child if, instead of telling them they got six out of ten questions on the test wrong, tell them they got four right, and then begin Inspiring, Motivating them, and Empowering them to think and feel that they can do better (Mo’ Betta!). I believe that before we can begin to teach anyone they should be made to believe that they can learn. From my experience, I have come across many who were able to learn and do well, but was never made to believe they were capable and, therefore, they lacked the confidence and were unable to move forward. For whatever reason, there are large numbers of people who seem to be stuck. For the most part, they are usually ignored and never gained the necessary tools needed to succeed.
If not now, then when will we begin to plant the seeds of hope into the hearts and minds of everyone we encounter, regardless of where they’re at in their story?
“Who Am I?” “Who Are You?”
The question I am always asked is “How do we become the character we’d like to see in our story?” I discovered the place to begin is by asking yourself the question, “Who am I?” Most times if you were to ask any person, “Who are you?,” they would undoubtably return an answer with very little meaning. An example: “I am Billy Paul.” But Billy Paul is just a name, it doesn’t tell us who you are. Now on the other hand, if you answered “I am Loving, Caring, Kind, Responsible, Trustworthy, and my name is Billy Paul,” that would provide more insight about who you truly are.
Years ago, I used the following exercise and it gave me an outline on who I was choosing to be. One of the most important statements we can use is “I am ____,” and what follows is a power statement. For example, “I am loving, caring, and kind and my name is ____.” I took out a piece of paper and I wrote down 10 answers to the question “Who am I?” The whole time thinking about the person I really wanted to be, not who others thought I should be. Down the page I wrote the 2 words, “I AM…” beside the 10 numbers.
I AM Loving!
I AM Caring!
I AM Kind! etc.
Then there came the big questions, “What makes you Loving?,” “What makes you Caring?, “What makes you Kind?” The answers: “I do Loving things,” “I do Caring things,” and “I do Kind things,” and if I don’t, then I’m not being true to myself. It’s true: actions speak louder than words. The beauty of this exercise is that each individual decides for themselves what kind of person they would like to be. This exercise also helps to define the leading character in your life story.
Now let’s imagine we were all taught this exercise from a very young age. I would imagine that the world would be a lot more Loving, Caring, and Kind! Please consider trying the exercise and telling me what you think in the comments section below!
I am an optimist, and I do believe that the higher good will prevail. Once again, parents, teachers, and all of us change agents need to remember that we need not concentrate so much on building walls, but building bridges, thereby helping our young people, students and the like to know that adults are a great resource. If they were to be utilized for their knowledge and experience, it would prove to be a great springboard into the future.
As change agents I believe it’s important to express to our fellow human beings that we all have a story, that we are the authors of our own story, and we need to decide what character we will choose to play in our stories.
As I used to tell my students, “Remember: your teachers are more than teachers. They’re resources. They’re also human beings who have stories, and with stories there’s a message.”
Let’s all pass on our stories and the messages they teach us that others need to hear. Please comment below or, better yet, register and join us at MoBettalife.com and start a conversation in the Forums!