Building Community Through Better Relationships

Community Trauma, Individual Pain

Reading Troubles

Little Joe was an eight-year old boy in an over-crowded elementary school in an underfunded, urban school district. He was illiterate. His teacher was predictably overworked and underpaid. Students filled her classroom struggling to learn at the prescribed level. She essentially had no resources to provide additional help. Her frustration met her every morning because that poor district left her few resources to ignite educational fires in these hungry minds with hungry bellies. In the middle of the semester, a new boy joined her class who had just moved from an out-of-state suburb. Trying to make a good impression on his new teacher, he demonstrated a reading ability two grades above his new peers. The teacher immediately gave her new star a special assignment. His job was to teach Little Joe how to read. The new student went home that day and cried uncontrollably to his father about his new job. Who was not traumatized in this true story?

Community Trauma is when an incident happens that literally impacts the whole community. Some events spectacularly happen quickly, like community violence. Other events evolve more slowly likely systemic poverty. In both cases, the idea of community involves a sense of belonging in the physical sense, or in a social emotional space. The challenge with healing community trauma is that the pain spreads deliberately and quietly until it is too unruly to manage. The slowly spreading result becomes an unnoticed growing problem that overtakes the entire community until it is difficult to help the people who have gradually accepted their symptoms of trauma as the new normal. Essentially, communities denigrate at a rate where trust, pride and safety erode so slowly that community does not know it is in jeopardy until personal and social plagues have poisoned the people and the environment. The trauma has evolved into social ills.

Coaching is an important tactic to combat community trauma because it introduces compassion and accountability. As social emotional tools are introduced into local communities through school groups, religious institutions, and community centers, the opportunity for locals to use successful tactics to improve social and economic outcomes appears. Unfortunately, coaching requires much more than spreading useful information. Even if the tools are available, do the instructors have the capacity to serve? Too many communities suffer because they accept bad doctrine to improve livelihoods. Successful coaching requires helpful information, consistent distribution, intentional reinforcement, faithful accountability, and repeated processes. The absence of any of these components result in the continued degradation of a community and its members.

Even with proper tools and great intentions, the rules of communication ultimately dictate the success of any society’s change. Effective communications require a clear, understandable voice and willing, attentive listeners. In introducing major changes in communities, too many rational voices are muffled by loud, misguided messages. Furthermore, many communities suffer because of ill-informed, or emotionally charged voices. Either way, damaging information transmits because of ignorance or irrationality.The community cannot progress because coherent, contributing messages are squashed. Loud, emotional, short-term thinking outbursts dominate conversations. The result is that the loudest, most incoherent chatter is mistaken for strong, logical discourse. The community suffers in every case that wisdom is lost in emotional moments.

Fundamentally, the ongoing pain that encompasses underserved communities is rarely neither ignorance nor apathy. The challenge features poor performance with regards to community, coaching, and communication. To uplift any community properly, tools and application must be in place so that the community is working together toward progress. Poor allocation of financial, educational, and health resources destroy social foundations leading to dysfunctional leadership and identity. Little Joe is not a bad kid because he is illiterate. But, the education system is bad when its solutions kills the spirit of the community’s future leaders because the resources are not available to save simultaneously the least and the most of these. While trauma may trigger the pain, misaligned leadership will destroy a community from the inside.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

November 30, 2019 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whose Community Wants 3 Cs?


In Kansas City, years ago a young, urban preacher, barked a bold and abrasive interpretation of biblical passage which caused many worshippers to bristle. Then, to emphasize the rough edge that the passage indicated, he challenged his allegedly more polished congregation by proclaiming, “I can say that… y’all don’t know all my previous addresses!” As the laughter subsided, it successfully raised a key point. What community does he truly represent? Community can often refer to neighborhoods, ethnic groupings, or a core of common beliefs. Fundamentally, a community can arguably be a manifestation of a core set of similar behaviors and morals.

With regards to establishing local behaviors and morals that embrace destructive tendencies, determining what people a community truly represents becomes very valuable. Consequently, when coping skills are required to manage individual inconsistencies in acceptable local behaviors, the community has a larger role in establishing acceptable standards. For example, in a rough and tumble community, an unwritten rule may exist that real men do not cry. The unintended consequence of this rule is that young men never learn to process their emotions. That dynamic results in another generation of young men who only learn to express themselves through anger and retaliation. They never developed, let alone expressed, more advance emotional skills. However, a community can function much more emotionally balanced through residents, and particularly young men, who develop a more rounded set of emotional expression. Less inhibited frustration clearly leads to less violence.

While developing more balanced emotional capacity and expression works well in controlled environments, human interactions actually occur in a complicated world. Role models, both positive and negative, exist in that complicated role. By intentionally equipping adults, young adults, and youth with balanced emotional skills, violent outbursts erupting from pent up frustration can be minimized. Specifically, coaching can build emotional tools to manage already identified destructive community behaviors. Coaching is different from teaching. Coaching emphasizes developing established skills to an improved level so that people perform better in their environment. Ultimately, by developing positive coaching acumen among community leaders and formal teachers, the result is building coping skills in future generations to interact productively.

Creating all these positive connections among generations and community segments are unproductive without developing better communications tools. By communication tools, the community must develop abilities to share and receive ideas. In other words, people need to speak and listen with equal understanding. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the population believes listening means waiting on your turn to talk again, people’s listening skills are in serious need of an upgrade. That upgrade can start with local students, who already are in learning environments, and equipping them with skills that require paying attention. Then, encourage them to share without judgment to develop communication skills so that basic understanding will meaningfully improve. Consequently, a key element for improving Social Emotional Learning skills includes elevating listening skill levels. Effectively developing listening skills can significantly reduce misunderstandings and resultant violence.

As developing these tools, Community, Coaching, Communication, the 3 Cs, becomes more prevalent in communities, mutual understanding will elevate. Unsurprisingly, as cultural rifts and angry expression are currently enabled, violence and division continue to escalate across too many communities. No group, class, nor social strata seems liberated from these ills at this point. The 3 C’s of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) are essential tools to build more cohesive local environments. The benefit begins once communities become receptive to coaching so that civil communication can begin in developing better coping skills which result in more harmonious environments.

By Glenn W Hunter
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

October 31, 2019 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person, Better World | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fearless, Reckless, or Clueless

Fearless Clueless School Fight

Violence rages out of control in too many schoolyards and playgrounds! Today, should school-aged children be taught to be brave, or fearless? While boys are traditionally taught to be brave as a sign of maturity, society is increasingly communicating that bravery must now cross genders. Bravery used to be a physical characteristic, featuring feats of strength. But now, it is really a social-emotional attribute. Walking away from a fight can be a sign of bravery. It demonstrates cooler heads prevailing. But, what happens when fear irrationally appears? Typically, undisciplined and reckless behaviors follow in the form of fight or flight. Often, violence follows.

The absence of fear is close to bravery and its positive attributes. However, the absence of a negative action is not necessarily the presence of a positive one. The ability to look fear in the face while maintaining dignity clearly suggests being fearless. Where school children used to learn “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”, know today that words can be painful and scarring. Consequently, at best, fearless now means looking at long-term potential harm, and still deciding to act. Fear can be present. It may even be limiting. But, persevering through the fear and embracing the consequences is literally courage.

In most communities, youth carry many fearful emotions with them daily. The emotions result from various forms of abuse and irrational role models that routinely intrude into their daily lives. Whether these threats are real from dysfunctional families, or fabricated from media images, they contribute to many destructive decisions when interacting with others. To combat such fear-based environments, school structures must contribute to reinforce knowledge and productive life skills. Unfortunately, that step means more training for educators. The next degree of difficulty features constructive coaching from other community influences and authority figures, as well. Simply, young people need to spend more time in social environments demonstrating life-affirming traits.

Destructive behaviors among youth often result directly from them being reckless. Such behavior coincides with the absence of discipline. Fundamentally, discipline is acknowledging established rules. In its absence, lawlessness takes root and chaos quickly follows. From a community standpoint, locals lose confidence in authority figures, including law enforcement. More aggressive rogue influences organize and assume control. The groups may be called gangs, community organizers, or concerned citizens. Regardless, once they communicate disruptive values, and then fear, locals can expect violence, and lawlessness to influence the community’s behaviors.

This social evolution potentially spreads until reckless behavior becomes the norm. Furthermore, with aggressive groups increasingly dictating local behaviors, positive and cohesive activities to strengthen community values disappear. Recklessness is the byproduct of fractured communities establishing their own guidelines despite being inconsistent with the greater society. The outcome is local groups leading through intimidation. Then, the youth grow in an environment where inconsistent rules and random authority figures represent their reality. Recklessness takes over the community and re-establishing a positive social order consistent with the broader community can literally take generations.

In prior generations, bravery implied standing up to bullies. Now it means being intellectually clever and emotionally flexible to avoid physical confrontation. Furthermore, youth are increasingly vulnerable to psychological stressors, in addition to physical trauma. The ability to look fear in the face and do it anyway has become increasingly difficult, yet more necessary. Developing camaraderie among youth remains a powerful tool to reduce fear. Likewise, building personal relationships among like-minded peers is an effective coping skill at all ages. Even in a digital world, common traits, mutual likes and similar dislikes attract like-minded personalities. Fearlessly welcoming others into personal, social-emotional engagement is the first clue toward building relationships. Then, personal relationships will evolve to build strong communities.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org



September 23, 2019 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person, Better World | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Think Outside the Box… Circle… Octagon


Violence in society seems to build momentum continually. Violence as sport continues to evolve at a similarly explosive pace. A fairly new, extremely popular sport is Mixed Martial Artist (MMA). This competition combines boxing, Jiu-Jitsu and other types of hand-to-hand combat. Where boxing features more strict rules and etiquette, MMA enjoys a more ruthless style and blood thirsty popularity. Unsurprisingly, young adults and youth continue to embrace the sport enthusiastically while encouraging behaviors that are more de-sensitized to violence, in general. The result reinforces violence-induced mental health challenges and disintegrating behaviors in many communities.

Furthermore, considering that MMA has evolved outside entertainment’s mainstream, rambunctious youth have gravitated toward the violence as acceptable entertainment. Additionally, the unconventional octagon that outlines the fighting surface adds a visual experience encouraging unconventional behaviors, which too often glorifies violence. To encourage civil society, communal communication tools and intentional behavioral coaching must emerge to counteract explosive tensions that deteriorate communities. Furthermore, Social Emotional Learning’s evolution must progress with equal intensity and purpose to combat destructive violent tensions in learning environments. Healthy communities must rely on counteracting influences emerging from the Octagon with its violence, anger, and destruction.

In boxing the combat zone is a square that is called a ring. That contradictory image in itself adds to the mental and emotional stress that the sport glorifies. Boxing rules are clearly known. They contradictorily emphasize safety as much as violence, yet the goal is to knock the opponent senseless. In previous decades, boxing champions were heroes and household names. As long as they were inside the ring (which was actually a square), their strength was displayed and envied. In today’s society such unmitigated violence is less celebrated in society at large. Discussion regarding youth development focuses on de-glamorizing violence. Yet, violent images are visible. These mixed signals contribute to confusing, unaligned behaviors. With so many stressors, how can youth develop in a relaxed environment that promotes their emotional health?

In environments where responsible adults for youth development abuse authority for their own ego gratification and inappropriate pleasure, empowering youth to participate in civil discourse transfers some power to them. Another way to enforce youth’s power is to encourage their inward reflection skills. Exercises that reward meditation and relaxation reinforce positive behaviors that more accurately support social emotional balance. Simply training youth to quantify their emotional level by using an acknowledged one to ten scale – where one is barely breathing and ten is ready for violence – youth can address mental and social-emotional moods to assist in managing anxiety. The ability to articulate and quantify escalating emotional states has benefited teachers, counselors and school officials in minimizing violent incidents across grade school levels.

Meanwhile, the Octagon directly associates with Mixed Martial Arts. This combat is more modern, and particularly brutal; analogous to many communities across America. Violence continues to escalate across most communities, ignoring cultural, ethnic, and socio-financial barriers. Consequently, modern pressures and increased media visibility accelerate new waves of violence into society. New drugs are introduced to parents and subsequently children at earlier ages. Violent perversion is likewise introduced earlier to youth as a result of technological advances in communications and media. To think outside the Octagon, with its many angles and perspectives, continues growing as a problem because more destructive behaviors are celebrated and reinforced as normal to younger people.

With so many destructive images attacking our communities, the social-emotional damage escalates at a more rapid pace. Simply put, more deviant behavior is available for more people, across more ages. Just like the Octagon gives more latitude and angles to disperse violence, our youth are susceptible to more deviant activity from more sources than previous generations. The result is more violence, substance abuse and social-emotional problems than authorities can process. While compassion, communication, and coaching are tools to assist diffusing tension, the sheer volume of incidents resulting from underfunded institutions and over-worked staffs remain as overwhelming problems. New solutions are necessary to resolve new social-emotional and behavioral conflicts.

Blindly using old paradigms and corrections for more modern problems makes as much sense as putting a boxer from the 70’s in today’s MMA Octagon. Give tools to kids to communicate and correct behaviors. Give them exercises to demonstrate power and authority in managing conflict. Teach youth to cooperate, engage and then share their challenges and victories. Equipping them with mechanisms, like meditation, relaxation and visualization to diffuse violence also helps. Disempowering bullies takes deliberate cooperation and social emotional skills. The point remains, development plans that improve communication, training and positive character images may seem to be out-of-the box thinking. But, it is actually out-of-the-octagon thinking such that it is equipped to manage better the problems that come with modern images, substances, and technology. That growth mindset will deliver enduring, community victories.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

August 31, 2019 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pop Tart Therapy

Pop Tarts

Pop Tarts have quieted children for generations. The original idea was to cook them in a toaster for a child to have a warm treat during the course of their day. Original flavors like Apple Currant Jelly, Blueberry and Strawberry, suggested enough fruit that parents could claim health benefits. The reality is that they are a sugar-injected, carb loaded treat that kids love. On the other hand, Pop Tarts are emotionally healthy. A quick treat on an empty stomach can be therapeutic. Stretch that concept to community building, then using that treat to bring people together makes them more receptive to sharing experiences. Pop Tart Therapy is about coming together and getting along. That connection starts community.

Food For The Soul
Real food nourishes. If someone wants to address a typical youth’s emotional problem, feed them. Exchanging a snack for a better attitude is often a legitimate communication technique. This technique has generationally driven results in faith-based communities, summer programs, and schools. Once fed, youth migrate toward a better mood; they become coachable. Then the opportunity slowly cracks to discuss emotional challenges. Over time, with a routine and conditioning, even youths’ willingness to be more sociable when they are not hungry becomes possible, too.

Particularly in cultures featuring people of color, food remains a major connective tool for community building. Pop Tart Therapy simply continues that cultural tradition. Neighbors gathering with a plate and a common cultural perspective facilitate connectivity, as well as engagement. Sharing Pop Tarts accomplishes the same objective. It is an easy, initial step to continued conversations. Whether the desired next step is team building, or community building, that outcome is a natural progression. Considering that the soul reflects people’s innermost being, feeding it with a Pop Tart does not destroy its essence. However, it definitely raises the energy level when the sugar rush kicks in! Now, people can address the deeper needs for the individual and the community!

My Daily Bread
Problems have priorities. “Feed me now, then let’s go build a stronger community!” The community’s deeper needs can surface in such a fashion that they can drive determining priorities in pursuing solutions. Daily Bread has co-equal functions in terms of establishing routines and expectations, while also speaking directly to fundamental nourishment. Whether metaphorically or literally, having something to eat helps people get along. Additionally, having routines results in establishing habits.

In school, youth have regularly scheduled lunch times so that they can be nourished to perform throughout the day. Still, they need to follow the regulated schedule to maximize their energy and productivity. Upon establishing routines, people have additional opportunities to create successful behaviors. By creating consistency and facilitating progress, the daily sustenance can be aligned with literacy, tutoring younger kids, accepting chores to clean the environment, assuming leadership roles as a direct response to individual initiatives. Daily Bread represents fulfilling the needs of individuals so that they are strengthened to the point that they can further contribute to the community.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the great. Social Emotional Learning is important because broken communities are comprised of broken people. Instant remedies are a myth. Deliberately nourishing bodies and minds are proven to improve quality of life. Foundations of people and community were not broken in a day, a year, or a generation. Still, repairs can start immediately. Pop Tart Therapy represents the first steps. Giving kids a place to grab a treat that causes them to return to a nurturing location is a start. Teaching them with minimal judgment and maximum compassion, the difference between right or wrong, is another step. Reinforcing their personal value, and subsequently their self-importance is a leap! Pop Tarts are simply a tasty metaphor. Community-based organizations that deploy Social Emotional Learning tactics deliberately take advantage of chances to steer youth toward better individual, community, and future choices. A marginally healthy snack is a small price to pay in exchange for building a community that embraces self-respect, self-esteem, then communication, coaching, and community.

By Glenn W Hunter
Board Chair, Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even donate – go to www.TYRS.org

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Want Me to Put the Burden Down

Lower 9th Ward Community Center

“We’re from the government, we’re here to help!” The statement has created laughs for generations, except when the absence of a real solution strikes too close to home. Outsiders with power and authority routinely launch brilliant programs in distant communities for minimal results. Too often, government programs lack effective outcomes despite valuable resources thrown at generic solutions. Locals have solutions, but impotently watch their true needs denied. While available resources help a little, too often only a limited group of contributors really benefit. Consequently, the greater good often means specific workers gain, and most individuals in the community lose. If only tools existed to equip community members with social-emotional power to articulate desires, then leverage inherent strengths?

Heavy Burdens
Unfortunately, allocating resources to local, social problems resembles bringing earth moving equipment to plant a community garden. The equipment is valuable and powerful, except it is being used for the wrong job. In cases where solutions require more finesse, and less pure power, burdens need to be handled more delicately. When improving the fabric of a community, the solution requiring finesse repeatedly contributes a little, as opposed to real solutions releasing raw power once.

Heavy emotional burdens combined with social suffocation drive poverty! Consequently, building social-emotional strength is necessary to battle poverty successfully. Regarding building community, desired results emerge from handling incremental improvements repeatedly, not just deploying one lump sum of assets. When considering a community’s population and improving their well-being, mental health and self-esteem must be prioritized. Success requires regular attention to account for individual progress and failures. Communicating and rewarding life-affirming behaviors solidifies the foundation for a community to prosper.

Strong Community
Nevertheless, good behavior and community pride only start stronger, more prosperous communities. Prosperity is attainable only upon reinforcing these behaviors. The more common solution is to empower adults and authority figures to communicate and enforce community building behaviors. But, kids are smart. Youth routinely see straight through hypocrisy and recognize abuses consistent with disingenuous programming. Strong and vibrant communities require a self-policing and cohesive environment that community members can respect. Otherwise, dysfunction emerges.

Deliberate action, where the community owns the process, is the only real solution. Such action requires equipping locals with life skills, tools and tactics to combat negative forces, like gangs, drugs, ignorance, and apathy that already occupy the community. Strong communities result from consistent, deliberate, and iterative improvement in behaviors and rewards. Social emotional skills to fortify a structure that rewards and reinforces life-affirming skills must be intentionally introduced and sustained. Communities that clearly know the risk and rewards of this approach are equipped to battle dark forces that attack community vitality.

Fundamentally, endorsing and supporting Social Emotional Learning and programming within communities will initiate positive change. Skill development for anti-bullying, self-esteem, and conflict resolution actually make a difference. Resistance will still be present. The difference is that delivering social emotional skills into local schools, community centers, and places of worship, reinforce the community as a place where people care. Opposition inside the community and government bodies will work to sustain the status quo. Nevertheless, success requires embracing, then lifting the burden. The burden is not the problem. The status quo is the problem. Lift the burden to develop community-based self-improvement. Educate to communicate with empathy. Community members must actively acquire tools, then own solutions for mutually respectful livelihoods! But first, people young and old, must unite to understand and reinforce social emotional benefits which will uplift another individual, then communities.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

June 30, 2019 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitcom Solutions And SEL

watching-TV-with-kids mesmerized

Watching your favorite show typically means that the episode’s issue will be resolved in a predictable amount of time. Unfortunately, real-life challenges are not done in a 30 minute block. Even considering longer programs, 60 minute increments of time rarely solve real-life issues either. Problems like sharing personal challenges, figuring out positioning in social groups, or equipping someone to manage raging emotions all need deliberate steps amidst uncertain navigation. But, who has tools to help these situations? How do people of all ages and maturity navigate paths resulting in functional adults? Why are these problems not resolved in one episode?

Watching a school yard full of children play at recess illustrates a full spectrum of human experiences. In 30 minutes outside the classroom, exercising physical bodies, social skills, and innermost insecurities are all simultaneously happening. As children develop over the years, these seeds flourish further into identities resulting in varying degrees of functional behaviors. However, at the dysfunctional end of the spectrum, emotions run rampant toward aggression and rage. While tools are available to curtail negative behaviors, who is responsible for deploying them? Who stops the negativity from dragging down the community?

Uplifting the community coincides with uplifting the individual. While authority dictates establishing rules and parameters, positive societal outcomes result from listening. Technically, positive outcomes are a result of communicating. However, the listening component is the more difficult part. While popular entertainment delivers conflict, then resolution within a single episode, human behavior does not obey any set schedule. Strengthening tools to communicate and cope depends on the skills of the teacher and the learner. Consequently, teachers proactively need to acquire effective coping skills so that they can teach the elements of cooperating socially.

Unfortunately, developing such coping skills defy any imposed schedule. Based on the learners, emotional, psychological, or intellectual baggage, the necessary time for correction varies dramatically. Factors ranging from school environments to home structure affects any individual’s ability to communicate appropriate, social interaction. Furthermore, this variance includes, teachers, leaders, and authority figures. The absence of Social Emotional Learning reverberates through communities and learning environments. Teachers that are burdened with emotional baggage are often ill-equipped to impart skills they never adequately received. Essentially, they cannot nurture attributes that they have not acquired themselves.

Consequently, without tools, nor allocated time, the problem festers. Poor behavior that results from poor guidance continues to foster aggression, apathy, and insensitivity. Simply starting to develop stronger listening skills often contribute to improved behaviors in developing minds. Furthermore, incorporating role play scenarios with encouragement allows positive behaviors to surface from turmoil. Also, empowering learners to establish group guidelines often facilitates positive behavioral outcomes. However, requiring conflict resolution inside a pre-designed timeframe is a recipe for frustration and failure for all involved parties.

Without understanding the degree of scarring that initially created dysfunctional behaviors, leaders are ill-prepared to predict in any way the necessary time to correct behaviors. Through intentional academic and community-based programming, people have the potential to develop behaviors that are more consistent with socially acceptable actions. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) helps build that strength. Creating ongoing education for all involved parties, leaders and learners, reinforces the tools to reform aggressive behaviors and transform them into more compassionate interactions. Despite not fully knowing the necessary timeframe to conclude training that improves social behaviors, the evidence is clear that the time to start instilling better behaviors is now.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even DONATE – go to www.TYRS.org


May 21, 2019 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Believe In This

Young Cross Country Runners

Runners hit walls! Particularly distance runners, whether training or competing, they eventually reach a point that severely challenges their will to continue. At that point, each individual runner must make a decision. Listen to the pain in the body, or the strength of their mind! In most cases, they choose to continue. Runners realize that this challenge is typical. Their experience has taught them that their mental capacity is more than sufficient to overcome the situation. This embedded will actually extends to physical, mental, and social goals. Victory depends on persistence.

Expect to Succeed
While the example is easy to see physically, what happens when the struggle involves a community? Or, when fatigue appears over years of working to encourage burdened neighbors, or the stomach knots from ongoing emotional burdens of dangerous environments? The fundamentals remain the same. First, believe that the obstacle can be overcome and that the result will be better. Next, accept the discomfort of taking the next step, and the next step. The pain is real! The alternative is the ongoing burden of the status quo.

The expectation that a better solution exists has strategies, also. Like runners in training, often the work is done in groups. Each individual owns their personal pain, insecurities, and aspirations. Yet, they routinely work through them in each other’s company. A community looking to raise their quality of life will encounter challenges. These challenges will seem overwhelming. But, believing in this change being futile solves nothing. Approach one challenge together, and also bring the expectation to succeed. Like the runners, let the group cooperate toward better outcomes.

Path to Results
Because improvements take time, the path requires a plan. Pain will also be part of the path. Like all teams, internal bickering happens. However, an underlying theme of encouragement overcomes many rough spots. Hurt feelings and hurt body parts both require compassion. Consequently, encouragement and healing becomes part of the group dynamic. Simply, knowing others have overcome similar setbacks set the foundation for recovery.

Essentially, whether a team, community, or individuals seek to improve, a few fundamentals must apply. The problem did not start in isolation, and will not resolve in isolation. One star performer will not carry the burdens for the entire group. Mutual respect for individual contributions is necessary so that aggregate contributions continue. In the name of teamwork, even small contributions need to be acknowledged and applauded. Camaraderie matters. Pain is inevitable. Success has many fathers, so let them appear. Failure is not final, so lean on the group with their individual contributions to overcome barriers to the desired results.

Believe In This: People encounter challenges. Choose to persevere. The mind stops before the body ever does. Like runners in training, teammates have come too far to stop. In approaching milestones, expect to achieve them, then surpass them. In building character, expect to demonstrate the desired behavior, then continue it. In building community, expect to reach out to a neighbor, then make progress with them. The same old idea only remains, if the parties choose not to change them. Believe that progress in people and communities result from encountering individual walls with the full belief and expectation that they will run through them to the greater rewards. Lead yourself. Lead your community. Overcome social, emotional, physical walls to achieve personal bests.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

February 28, 2019 Posted by | Better Community | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Were Kids Together

Kids on the Playground (2)

Here’s a quick test of your competitive spirit. Would you rather compete with your best buddy or your fiercest enemy? Friend or foe, who gets your best effort? Unsurprisingly, champions and conquerors often refer back to competition in their younger years that later developed unconquerable spirits. Great achievement involves more than overcoming significant obstacles, it features competing and defeating assorted adversaries. The core of the friend or foe argument is whether the competitive spirit is forged in the cradle of friendly contests or the crucible of heated combat. What exactly happens in these metaphorical sandboxes that breeds competitive greatness over time?

Competition is the father of achievement! You got to play to win. Whether on the playground, in the classroom, or inside a laboratory, competition inspires superior performance. To be clear, competition also involves communal efforts. Teams integrate individuals who work together for group achievement. Applying this mindset to communities, victory is not a singular accomplishment. Having assorted individuals and groups contribute toward an identifiable goal is the heart of victory. Winning involves defeating circumstances as much as an opponent.

Engaging competitors is more than a group identifying a common, external adversary. Competing against internal apathy is also part of the battle. The best victories emerge when individuals unite against a common enemy whether it is an individual, a community, or an institution. The benefit of competition is that it consolidates complimentary resources to defeat external opponents. Having common bonds resulting from common perspectives and backgrounds truly builds a spirit of camaraderie that is hard to overcome.

Team building matters. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield built Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on a mutual obsession for ice cream and other foods. Inseparable since high school, their mutual passion jointly led a revolution within the food industry. Ben & Jerry’s redefined and reignited the ice cream industry by providing a premium product in both retail outlets and specialty shops. In their case, their common background facilitated common values, as well as a desire to disrupt that conquered the ice cream industry. Their collaborative, cooperative, communal perspective was anchored on joint experiences that led to a joint perspective, then joint domination.

The power behind collaborative success creates synergy. Aligned focus results in more strength targeting solutions. From a teamwork perspective, aligning synergy among several individuals impacts a community. Positively impacted communities lead to progress. The metaphor of kids growing up together directly applies to building unity in several common endeavors. Camaraderie directly correlates with teamwork and incrementally impactful outcomes. What better image to establish an environment where relationships facilitate common culture than kids sharing a playground?

Returning to the initial question: would you rather compete against your best buddy, or your fiercest enemy? There is no right, or wrong answer. But, an individual’s ability to compete, discern, cooperate, and win is undoubtedly revealed during competition. Anyone can compete for individual glory. However, teams also benefit by competing for communal rewards. Cooperation fundamentally is a learned individual trait that produces collective benefits. The ultimate benefit is when groups form to find new challenges and overcome them. Simultaneously cultivating competitive and cooperative foundations helps a lot. Kids who literally grow up together geographically, or grow up together experientially, will build common and functional cultures that will flourish over time.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more – and even contribute/ donate – go to www.TYRS.org

December 21, 2018 Posted by | Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Head Down, Eyes Up

Head Down Eyes Up

Too many young people use images to inflict pain and despair. Furthermore, institutions often perpetuate images that discourage overcoming such crippling emotions. Imagine a young man of color with his head buried on a desk. He could easily be reflecting his manhood’s institutionalized destruction. However, the same image could easily be illustrating the convergence of great purpose connecting to great outcomes. Specifically, this gratifying image reveals a young man preparing for his SAT Exam approximately four weeks before accepting a full basketball scholarship which became available upon receiving his final score.

Know Your History
His academics were questionable largely because his environment and expectations were stereotypically assigned to him. He possessed exceptional athletic talent. Still, that narrative fit a convenient stereotype. However, when his basketball coach boldly approached a special tutor with a proprietary SAT preparation program, stereotypical walls were threatened. The coach knew of the tutor’s success in increasing SAT performance with high school students. The coach also believed in the player’s heart that wanted to decimate stereotypes of academically underperforming athletes. The coach needed to facilitate an environment that illuminated that stereotype’s foolishness.

In arguably the coach’s greatest recruitment job, he explained to the tutor why he would deliver a seven-week program in three weeks and achieve significant results. First, the coach dismissed other unflattering labels that had been assigned to the kid. He emphasized the player’s unyielding tenacity. The coach then assured the tutor that he had the singular voice who could reach and teach this student-athlete. So, when other “authority figures” explained to the kid that boys from his part of town do not go to college, the tutor simply moved his mindset to a different location! The student was no longer home; he was on the road to college basketball! The tutor’s Social Emotional Learning experience interceded to challenge the young athlete to grab new tools to make constructive decisions for better outcomes in a new psychological environment.

Make A Solution
Coach G! SAT Training program clearly had the academic tools available for a successful outcome. However, building trust as the right authority figure to guide the youth in the right direction was more challenging. But again, Social Emotional Learning skills provided a path to encourage confidence and competence. Where slow academic progress created sympathy, the new learning environment embraced empathy. Creating conversations about the feelings of academic success quickly led to sharing a common desire to succeed. The goal was less about academic success and more about achieving a goal of a better life.

As the academic learning continued, his emotional strength grew. The student’s concern of sacrificing his present for an unknown future disappeared as his comprehensive learning embraced new realities featuring life-affirming outcomes. As the student further acknowledged an encouraging ear, he became more intentional in sharing what he knew and what else he intended to learn. His new learning community emphasized accomplishment, instead of judgment. Most importantly, as the test date drew closer, he equated his success with better life choices. He encountered an authority figure who cared how he felt and supported his choice for an improved self-image.

The student realized that his college aspirations required more perseverance than intellect. Athletically, he brought a strong sense of tenacity and desire with him. He then channeled those attributes to help close the knowledge gap with new peers. By building skills based on tenacity, outcomes and self-worth, the young man learned to set personal goals pointing to positive outcomes which he personally desired. He envisioned, embraced, and engaged his future, while owning the outcomes with the support of wise counsel. In short, the image of the jock with his head down transformed to reflect purpose with emotional maturity. More importantly when his head rises up, he sees a future where he possesses tools and maturity to create achievement as he sees fit.

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chair of Touchstone Youth Resource Services
To learn more about social emotional learning (and even donate) go to TYRS.org (link)

October 19, 2018 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment