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Building Community Through Better Relationships

Perseverance is Power, Knowledge Steers

The old saying states that “Knowledge is Power’. However, in our constantly changing world even knowledge’s role evolves. “Perseverance is power!” Effective immediately, knowledge has assumed a diminished role! To create momentum and ultimately progress, the ability to continue performing results in value, influence and growth. Knowledge still has a meaningful purpose. Its purpose is to ensure that mental energy and information grows in a positive direction. Knowledge steers this incredible, positive force!

Knowledge 

American school systems provide 13 years of education in a typical K-12 system. Skills like reading, writing and arithmetic represent the classic tools that students receive. These skills remain a baseline, but the ability to grow those skills, integrate new skills, and synthesize deeper thinking eventually facilitate more powerful outcomes. The challenge is that these additional skills are not successfully emphasized nor distributed across the American cultural spectrum. More knowledge is undoubtedly good. Still, too many young people learned basic skills and declared that they have sufficiently learned. Whether no one corrected this common misconception, or the youth were ill-equipped to grasp the requirements of their education, they were wrong. Subsequently, the ability to facilitate learning growth through additional empowerment became a benefit directly related to additional privilege. The less privileged students across the spectrum neglected to continue expanding their learning at a comparable pace.

Perseverance

However, for those students that were coerced, incented, or privileged enough to pursue learning with rigor acquired more advantages than just more information. The additional knowledge bestowed a certain amount of direction. Furthermore, the lessons from perseverance imputed incremental benefits of confidence and power. Additional knowledge did not simply mean more information. When combined with perseverance the ability to synthesize and grow their intellectual foundation resulted in new experiences. Furthermore, it manifested a larger worldview. An urban elementary school kid with good grades may leverage his ability to advance learning within his community. Meanwhile a stereotypical suburban youth with the same prowess has a path for additional learning in other communities, perhaps through specialized programs, or by international exposure. In both cases, the knowledge steered them out of their immediate environment. The order of magnitude varied! Knowledge with perseverance opens windows and doors for advancement where less privileged opportunities merely take their knowledge to another closed off room.

Conclusion

Ultimately, knowledge is dynamic. For learners of all categories to benefit from assorted educational opportunities, incremental lessons need to be accompanied by encouragement and accolades. The victory is not the best grade today. True victory is the opportunity to benefit more from increased competition. Who really wants to be the smartest sixth grader in their school, when the rest of the world presents so many more opportunities for growth? Perseverance in gaining more knowledge is the power that truly makes the difference. For curious learners, doubling down on perseverance requires being surrounded by better minds, as well as better information. Individuals who want more, will find more, do more, then apply more! Next, they repeat! Knowledge has its advantages. It steers toward unimagined value. Yet, perseverance provides power to exceed the wildest ambitions!

By Glenn W. Hunter

Board Chairman, Touchstone Youth Resource Services

Learn more about social emotional learning, or to donate go to TYRS.org

December 31, 2020 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Square Peg, Round Hole, New Solution

A young couple stare at each other across their table trying to figure how to stay in front of their bills. They are smart, responsible, and hard-working. They are patient, kind, and considerate toward each other. They are truly in love. Yet, they cannot seem to squeeze their modest lifestyle into their more modest budget. Their budget’s math seemingly has no solution. The husband exhales heavily, looks at the figures again, and declares, “Doing our budget is like putting a square peg in a round hole.” The wife radiantly smiles. You are absolutely right. We can now fix the problem! 

Square Peg 

In the classic children’s book “Alice in the Looking Glass” the caterpillar tells Alice when they are stopped at a keyhole, “It is impassible, not impossible. Nothing is impossible.” With that mindset re-evaluate the shape and size of the peg. Is all of it necessary, or can corners be sacrificed by cutting them? Regarding the round hole, sometimes the answer is a bigger hammer. Other times it is a sharp saw. Can the true goal be accomplished by sacrificing the edges in order to get the peg through the hole? No need to save the edges if they are unnecessary. 

At first glance a square peg in a round hole may not fit. The corners are not designed to squeeze through circular holes. Too many problems get stuck when facing obvious facts. The square peg could represent monthly salary, available time, or inherent intellect. The problem with the square peg is that it must pass through a different shape. Too much month, and not enough money is one way to look at the square peg. Old problems, or previous limitations are other ways to look at it. But what happens when a new perspective reveals itself? What opportunities are missed in focusing on the square peg’s limitations? 

 
Round Hole 

First recognize the round hole is circular. An object of similar size with edges may experience problems passing through this particular hole. However, in this case what is the round hole’s purpose? Is it a constraint or an opportunity? The challenge with round holes is that they are perceived to be inflexible. But, with an active and creative imagination revealing additional possibilities, a round hole may become more malleable and accommodating. 

Round holes may be mathematically awkward because most calculations involve the number, pi. By definition, pi is an irrational number. However, its irrationality does not mean that it is impractical. Because of pi, circular shapes have mathematical solutions. These problems require sufficient skill and confidence to pursue accurate solutions. Consequently, the important question is who is bold enough to study deeper, or seek help on challenging problems? Where can the answer be found? 

 
Conclusion 

First, truly evaluate the ultimate goal. Determine what can be sacrificed. What are the consequences if the problem is not solved at all? What are the want-to-haves, as opposed to the got-to-haves? What is the worth of the ultimate reward of solving the impossible problem? Life is full of square pegs that must fit into round holes. Sacrifice and priority are no one’s favorite terms. Yet, compromise helps them roll off the tongue better. Trade off and solve. Get a bigger hammer or a sharper chisel. Too often, pegs and holes are not the obstacles. Fixed mindsets are! Remove unnecessary boundaries. Solve the true problem. Perhaps the family budget simply needs to prioritize and postpone the brand new sneakers and the to-die-for pumps for 30 more days. The sacrifices may just keep the peace and set the foundation for greater accomplishment! 

By Glenn W Hunter, Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Chair, Board of Directors, Touchstone Youth Resource Services
Learn more about social emotional learning, or to donate go to TYRS.org

November 30, 2020 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Quarantine Fifteen

Lion Cub Mirror

During a scorching California summer featuring pandemics and quarantines, I decided to wash my 20-something daughter’s car. After sitting in a desert driveway for weeks with nowhere to go, her vehicle had finally accumulated enough dust. Nevertheless, even good deeds must abide by edicts, rules and protocols. “Thou must not touch the radio in her car.” is one such edict! As I listened to music that I had never heard before, and commercials for products that I did not know existed, some 20-something on the radio mentioned the “Quarantine Fifteen”. I quickly peeked at my stomach that was uncomfortably close to the steering wheel and knew exactly what that 20-something meant.

Quarantine
I felt shamed. I felt alone. It had nothing to do with me driving in a car by myself. I had just been outed by an unseen voice who knew my loneliness and had imposed body shaming on me. How did he know? In reality, the voice was a recording and I had already internalized some trauma regarding my weight. The loneliness of the quarantine made me vulnerable. Conforming to the Covid 19 pandemic’s authority, I physically and emotionally retreated. Snacks were my refuge. I retreated behind groupthink so not to spread the virus. No one cared. Unfortunately, more of me had become available to be alone.

But, aloneness and loneliness are choices. The recorded radio voice really did not know me. Physical distancing was designed to minimize human-to-human contact which could decelerate spreading the virus. But, engagement remains alive and well. The “Quarantine” exposed that I was susceptible to messages that did not reflect my reality. The “Quarantine Fifteen” shamed me to accept that consequences exist for being alone. Equally true, it can be a call that self-care demands to be a priority. Not just cleaning the car, but cleaning my esteem, health and personal appearance is still a priority. Positive results are available.

Fifteen
The “Fifteen” simply indicates a number rhyming with quarantine. Nevertheless, body shaming is real. The commercial wants you to see the world through their lens. Individually, we each can determine the lens in which we see the world. Fifteen pounds is too much because someone with a microphone, that you will never meet, said so? The truth is that an individual has the authority to dictate their own perception. A Fifty and Fabulous grandmother has as much authority over self-esteem as a teenager dragging around the Quarantine Fifteen. Realize that Grandma is having a much better time.

Likewise, Dad washing the car is performing an act that brings joy. It may not be as much fun as being Fifty and Fabulous. But, it beats the heck out of hiding in the living room waiting for the quarantine to be lifted believing that the extra 15 pounds will leave the house first. The fifteen is not the problem. The attitude is the problem. Personal uplift results from identifying the point of pain and remedying it. Soap and water coming out of a wand solves the problem of the dirty car. Proclaiming “Today I am going to do one thing to be a better me.”, promotes improving your personal identity.

Conclusion
“Be True To Who You Are!” Whether you choose to reveal yourself as you are today, or intend to be in two weeks, perform consistent with your chosen reality. Kind people need to go ahead and perform a kind act for someone else. If loneliness in a pandemic has you down, find individuals that you like and trust both personally and health-wise so that you can arrange to engage each other. No one is absolutely sure what the New Normal will look like. Nevertheless, being true to who you are, and showing kindness will probably be an important part of your successful plan.

By Glenn W Hunter
Managing Director, Hunter And Beyond, LLC
Board Chairman,Touchstone Youth Resource Service
www.TYRS.org

July 19, 2020 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s The Adult In the Room?

Sad-Office-Boy
Dinner tables across America have recently put an extra place setting at the dinner table. Trauma is coming to dinner! Without an invitation, trauma just showed up around dinner time, ready to eat. As families navigate the “New Normal” regarding Covid 19, riots and quarantines, social routines change.Dysfunction and domestic pressures quickly follow. Uncertainty and fear are now constantly in the home. Furthermore, parents are afraid because of instantaneous spikes in unemployment. Children are disoriented because school routines were either eliminated or transformed into blending learning. No authority figures communicated credible solutions nor expectations. What happened to certainty?

More Information
As a result of the pandemic’s health uncertainty, economic irrationality quickly followed. No known projections for social remedies applied. Furthermore, government models concerning employees, students, vagrancy or any other reason for people to congregate, now must factor in sickness and death. Imposed quarantines essentially meant that people socially withdrew to avoid fatal illness. Nevertheless, what did people know for sure from politicians or other leaders? The illness spread quickly so contact with other people had to be severely limited. Consequently, people corralled in their homes. Parents were now forced to engage their children on an ongoing basis; and they barely knew each other.

Frustrated parents now had to face the facts that their children had matured while they paid little attention. Children realized that their behaviors had evolved with input from peers, social media, and streaming shows. Neither party were ready to interact with the other party on an ongoing basis because work, activities, and socializing had diluted the functioning strength of traditional homes. All news sources discouraged everyone. Tempers flared. Violence struck. Groceries and assorted goods were sporadically scarce. And, no news source truthfully pointed toward a logical, trustworthy resolution.

More Uncertainty
As family, employment, political beliefs and trust quickly eroded, credible authority figures became more scarce. With limited credible options to secure direction, new evidence of trauma entered living and working spaces. Children looked to parents for guidance. Parents experienced skyrocketing tension resulting from quickly eroding and frightening workplaces. Still, no credible source emerged with a logical path to a solution. Trust eroded from familiar authoritative voices, which was quickly followed by trust eroding within homes. Dependence on substances, fear, and violence anecdotally escalated.

Unfortunately, people motivated by fear increase irrationality. Without leadership, people’s hope begin to perish. Schools sustained student engagement with lunch programs. Parents with multiple children tried to game the system for additional food during distribution. Both parents and school leaders pretended to ignore that in many cases the school lunch program often provided the one balanced meal that children enjoyed that day. Yet, who was responsible for determining the trade-off between encouraging academic progress or facilitating healthy nourishment choices.Teachers, parents, and political leaders were all uncertain concerning desired outcomes of this makeshift program. The practice simply evolved.

Takeaways
Sometimes, the emperor has no clothes! The authorities were not prepared to satisfy the people’s needs. Without an adult in the room, the children struggled to navigate rules that did not result in chants of “Kill the pig!” Whether authority figures are right, wrong, indifferent, or clueless, in the name of structure they need to be followed until clearly determined to be incompetent. Unfortunately, anarchy becomes an option. It is rarely a good one. As the Covid 19 pandemic continues to ebb and flow in alignment with questionable decisions by leaders and citizens, violent protests march toward a buffet of unintended consequences.

At some point the masses must decide what level of dysfunction is palatable. Will children be hurt, deprived, or just abandoned? Will public education become a luxury item for communities that can meet a presently undetermined level of civility? Or, will a leader emerge that saves our current way of life? Ultimately, an adult must stand in the room and be recognized! For the sake of the children’s future, let’s believe that this adult will be positioned to address assorted community trauma and re-build a society that values life, continuity and a future.

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

June 15, 2020 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better World | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Viral Boundaries, New Behaviors

woman wearing black face mask

Photo by Zulurid on Pexels.com

 

Children now stay at home from school, highways overnight became abnormally empty, and adults dramatically changed work options. American society is experiencing severe shocks to its normal course of operation! Particularly changes in routines that our youth must endure has caused dramatic shocks to society’s normal flow. This disruption has created many unexpected consequences that extend beyond a uniquely violent strain of the flu. Besides wearing masks publicly, handshakes, bro’ hugs, and gentle squeezes between genders are endangered gestures. Personal space is now sacred. Who even heard the term social distancing before this insanity began?

 

VIRAL BOUNDARIES
As American society endures its latest pandemic, individuals must learn the unique terms of engagement for this latest illness, while acquaintances, friends, and loved ones are dying. The body count has become part of the news cycle. And through it all, both young and old are clueless regarding next steps for the behaviors that will permit our species and society to continue. The boundaries are determined by a virus that we cannot see, hear, feel, or smell. Nevertheless, once it impacts anyone, all doubt is removed that it is present.

While adults struggle to figure out society’s new normal, our youth are baffled.Yet, as youth has done across the ages, they make up rules as they go along. Presently, six feet represents the benchmark for physical distancing. But, how well is a five-foot tall grade schooler equipped to measure that distance? Beyond the physical boundaries, emotional boundaries are impacted. Hugs can result in severe illness. Job losses disrupt harmony at home. Friends of all ages are viewed with suspicion because everyone is absolutely clueless regarding what contact any given friend has had with other acquaintances and family members. Plus, it only takes one innocent contact to circulate a mind-numbingly painful and contagious illness. Frustration in every household begins when the first alarm clock rings. Then, it escalates!

NEW BEHAVIORS
So, new sets of behaviors are required. Except that old behaviors have not been properly displaced. Alcoholism that has been routinely in the family unit, now must stare down a quarantine. The new reality features a casual drinker in the house who typically has a daily drink or two to take off the edge. Except, the new reality leads to abuse because the edge never leaves! Elsewhere, friends are sick or scared, so socializing is minimized. Even, close family members are contagious and cautious such that everyone at home is justifiably paranoid. Once social outlets have closed, then domestic abuse surfaces as a convenient option for frustration. Unsurprisingly, the next generation follows suit. Consequently, substance abuse, and its BFF, domestic violence, now run rampant throughout our communities’ new reality. Data confirms this.

With fear, violence, and uncertainty taking up permanent residence in every corner of our community, destructive cycles perpetuate. Dysfunction literally goes viral, as children have no escape. Their schools are closed. This means, social outlets are closed. Their physical outlets are closed. And, far too often, recreational options are closed. New behaviors are driven by fear, hunger, uncertainty, separation, and physical loneliness. How do our youth cope? How do our youth connect? How do our youth manage the unprecedented rush of emotions that floods every corner of their existence? Who is in charge? Who knows what to do?

TAKEAWAYS
Ironically, the solution resides exactly where the problem began to gain significant momentum. Unfortunately, the solution is back in the belly of the beast. Community is the answer! In this case community means convenient resources and relationships that are trustworthy. Community means guidance from trusted authority figures to help youth navigate these uncharted pathways. Community requires instruction from multiple sources that at least include, law enforcement, healthcare, education, and local government. Unfortunately, any moral breakdown from any of these social pillars will only escalate the destruction of public confidence or progress. Currently, boundaries are established by a viral enemy that has the ability to take what we hold dearest. Consequently, communal efforts that align with common behaviors over time will save society. Either trust the authorities to guide communities within proper boundaries to return to safety or risk anarchy.Accept conventional behaviors that benefit the masses, even at the risk of the individual. Or, descend quickly to social and physical depths featuring yet unseen horrors and destruction. Let’s choose each other. Be Safe! Good luck.

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

April 22, 2020 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person, Better World | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whose Community Wants 3 Cs?

Father-Son-Talk-Truth

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.

Community
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.

Coaching
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.

Communication
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.

Takeaways
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.

Fearless
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.

Reckless
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.

Takeaway
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

MMA SEL

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.

Circle
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.

Octagon
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.

Takeaway
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.

Takeaway
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.

Takeaway
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