My Thoughts, Responses, ​and Ramblings

The past few weeks have provided all of us with a range of emotions as several schools in our area have been evacuated due to written and verbal threats being made and/or communicated. While this is something that has been happening on a national scale, we now see it with a fresh pair of eyes as it hits close to home and affects children here in our local community. I’ve wondered how I could respond and how I could encourage from my vantage point as an advocate for children, a Christian, and a childcare director.

I recognize that I don’t have all the answers, nor do I think any of us have the perfect answers to a multitude of issues that affect our children in the current day and time. I do believe that this is a call for us to unite together despite our differences. We must come together to support our children and schools. We must volunteer in our schools. We must listen to our children when they speak (which is hard for us adults) and respect them. We must not immediately get on social media with our frustrations and complaints – we adults need to be part of the solution. We must collectively create a system of support for our children – we must community all the time not just when we’re scared or upset.

Might I add that we can’t talk about what we’ve always we done we have to understand the context of the world in which we are living in and how our children are being affected by things now that a 90s kid like myself was never exposed to, think about when you were in the 1st grade in comparison to a 1st grader you might know today. We have so many things that our children are exposed to now in the realm of social media, hate speech, opioids, gender issues, sexuality, connectivity (internet and cell phones), violence, mass shootings, a culture of fear and anxiety, bullying, and this list goes on. The exposure to things like daily school evacuations is difficult for children to understand and are significantly traumatic for them and can cause long-lasting harm. We have to respond in ways that understand how our children are seeing the world and we must walk with them not command them. We must listen to their needs and hear how they feel. Our children are innocent and unbiased and can teach us something if we will listen and I’m proud to admit that children have taught me a lot and made me a better person.

Today and most every day I’m praying these words:

God our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Everything, 

Help us to make sense of this broken world we live in that has so many needs and so many unknowns. Help us, adults, to not be selfish but selfless and see the greater good for all people. Help us to be better stewards of your grace and love. Help us to not put our hope in wayward men and women but in you and you alone. Help us to seek your guidance as we walk daily and to share your light with all that we come in contact with. Give us a spirit of calmness so that we don’t react out of anger or rage but with a clear mind that isn’t ignorant or judgmental. 

Help us to value the need for human connection and appreciate relationships that we have with one another. Help us to be salt and light in this world. Amen. 

I’ve found myself saying more and more “thank you for trusting your babies with me” and that is the honest truth I genuinely am grateful and humbled to be able to share in the lives of so many children and pray that I’m able to add something positive to their bucket and I’m grateful for the staff I get to work alongside and supervise every day that wants the best for our children and their families.

May we all want the best for ALL children!

 

Why Out of School Time Matters

Recently I was made aware that some individuals that lead our great nation believe that out-of-school time programs don’t matter and make no difference in the lives of the many we serve. While this is out of the norm for me get political on my posting this one will be my exception because the work that many of us out-of-school time providers do is life-changing and does make a difference and I’m most grateful that my life’s journey has led me to be part of this great place where I lead pre-school, after-school, summer camp and many other programs that focus on better lives of the most precious in our sight. While in many ways I’m an amateur in comparison to many of my colleagues I’ve met who have done this work for years, I do feel it’s important to defend our work when it is being criticized on a national level, so I will share some ways in which the program I lead, as well as, ways many other programs are changing lives.

  • We work with families to ensure the best for their children and provide them with life-changing experiences.
  • We seek to provide cost-effective care.
  • We to provide kids with experiences they wouldn’t have any other way.
  • We seek work in tandem with schools and many other community groups best serve the whole child.
  • We seek to educate through non-traditional formats.
  • We keep children from going home to an empty house or getting in trouble with the law.
  • We provide them with a place of safety and release after a long day.
  • We mentor and nurture.
  • We create opportunities for children to learn, share and grow together!
  • Staff serves as big brothers and sisters caring for kids!

 

Those are some examples of why out of school time programs matter and how I’d like to highlight the work I get to be part of with a wonderful staff here at 1st Explorers.

  • We provide care options on all days that school is closed to include teacher workdays, snow days, spring break, early release, etc.
  • We create opportunities for students to be part of the leadership and development of our program through asking about what they would like to learn.
  • We create specific clubs.
  • Students cook together and learn how to make healthy food.
  • Students are mentored by college students who are excited to be part of the development of our children.
  • We seek ways to provide them with a global perspective through missions’ education.

 

I wholeheartedly believe in the work I do and so many others to create opportunities for our children and you and remain committed to find ways to help children and youth develop and grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Millennial​ Thoughts

Over the past few years I’ve been pretty silent about the things that I have read and heard from my elders who for some reason have decided to discredit and disrespect the thoughts and opinions of my fellow millennials. However if we (millennials) challenge the opinions of those “older and wiser” than us we’re considered rude, disrespectful, ignorant, self-focused and are told that we’re unrealistic, don’t understand life and have no respect for history – just to name a few of my favorite insults and I will outline later in this post along with my responses.

 

From my vantage point, (let me remind you that I have a vocation that allows me to work with all generations) I believe we have hit a point in our current landscape where we will not have constructive conversations, which is a shame. Admittedly, I enjoy having conversations with those who believe differently than I do, and I believe that we should have an open mind and respect the opinions of others. When we disagree with another person that is not an indictment on each other’s character. Luckily, I get to have quality conversations with a wide variety of individuals each day who I disagree with that I find the good in and respect. I also know that their ignorant and insensitive social media posts don’t reflect who they are. While I’m saying that, if you decide you need to “correct” me on my thoughts by commenting on this blog I will not engage you – let’s have a face to face conversation; you know, that thing some of you believe my generation isn’t good at.

 

As a millennial I get to supervise individuals that for the majority are in their late teens to early 20s. I work to provide out-of-school care in the form of Preschool, After School, and Summer Camp to the current iGen generation that was born during the 2000s. Therefore, my vantage point and exposure to various generations is broad, which I’m grateful for. I have learned so much from those younger and older than me, especially as a supervisor, when they have pushed me to think differently or encourage me to be open-minded in areas I’m closed off to. They have allowed me to have better skills to look at the bigger picture, which I believe we all need to do.

 

A few statements I’ve heard or read that I’d like to specifically respond to:

 

  • “These young people don’t understand hard work.”
    • Yes, we do! However, we believe our places of employment should provide fair wage and appropriate benefits. Think about our current cost of living.
    • By the way, you raised us.
  • “All they care about is texting and the internet.”
    • That’s a lie and a vague generalization. We have grown up in a technology-driven culture and were educated with technology.
    • Yes, we do know about dictionaries and encyclopedias.
    • Yes, we do know how to do things without a computer or the internet.
  • “They’re too sensitive and think things should be fair for everyone.”
    • Well if you don’t believe in treating people with respect and kindness no matter who they are – check yo self!
  • “All they do is protest.”
    • Gladly. And protesting is something that has been happening for many generations, so are you upset that we protest about things you don’t believe in? *And I’m not advocating for violent protesting. Also, I’m not saying I agree with every protest.
  • “I won’t listen to anything about gun control from kids who eat Tide Pods.”
    • Just stop! And shame on you for making that statement because school shootings should NOT be a normalcy and should not happen on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
  • “I blame their parents.”
    • What bad and/or inappropriate behaviors do you have that we can blame your parents for?
    • What bad and/or inappropriate behaviors do your children have that we can blame you for?
  • “Oh, honey, you’re too young, you don’t understand.”
    • I’m not stupid. Help me understand. Don’t demean and disrespect me in that way. I’ll gladly respect you and listen as long as you give me the same respect.
  • “None of the things y’all are fussing about have been an issue. Y’all are making it one by talking about it.”
    • Give me a break. So many things have been an issue for years even before us millennials made our presence known on this earth; they were just ignored.

 

I find myself frustrated with all generations on some level because as I said earlier there is criticism on all sides. However, I feel as though we all have significant things to share with the world that will make it a better place. I would like to remind my elders that they were young at one point and to remember how it felt when no one respected them and their offerings to the world.  My belief is that the expectation for older generations is to uplift, encourage, mentor and respect future generations.

 

 

Walking and Learning

As I walk daily through this journey called life I have l have learned a few things and have been keeping a list as a way for me to be self-reflective and self-aware. While I know I have much more to learn along the way, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the journey that I try to apply to my life:

  • Breathe deeply and smile.
  • Be patient and take time.
  • Slow down and notice things around you.
  • Don’t lose self in the mundane.
  • Recognize what you can and can’t do.
  • Talk to God. Pray
  • Stop and say “Hello. How are you?” to those you come in contact with.
  • Find a release that brings you gladness.
  • You can’t fix everything.
  • Make time for fun.
  • Do something for others.
  • Spend time with those close to you.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Spend time outside.
  • Not everything requires a picture. Enjoy the memory.
  • Travel and see all that you can.
  • Experience things that challenge you and make you think outside of the box.
  • Be open to new and different things.
  • Get outside.
  • Consider others before self.
  • Don’t judge someone based on their social media posts.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Keep encouragers in your life.
  • Say thank you to those who help you.
  • Be aware of your health. Take care of yourself.
  • Try new foods.
  • Write notes.
  • Spend time alone lost in your thoughts.
  • Live in the now and don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Unplug from social media and technology.
  • Give thanks.

 

My friends, the journey is filled with many twists, turns and road bumps, learn along the way and reflect.

 

As singer and songwriter Chris Stapleton eloquently reminds us in his song Traveler:

I’m just a traveler on this earth
Sure as my heart’s behind the pocket of my shirt
I’ll just keep rolling till I’m in the dirt
‘Cause I’m a traveler, oh, I’m a traveler
I couldn’t tell you honey, I don’t know
Where I’m going but I’ve got to go
‘Cause every turn reveals some other road
And I’m a traveller, oh, I’m a traveler

 

 

A Sense of Gratitude

During this Lenten season, I’ve attempted to start my day with a sense of gratitude for the life I have and the many blessings around me. Its allowed me to start the day on a positive note and served as a reminder that it’s never as bad as I think. Some things that I’m grateful for are:

 

  • My faith and the ability to have a vocation that allows me to share it openly.
  • My family that supports and encourages me and made me who I am.
  • My friendships that encourage and support me.
  • My sense of adventure and desire for out of the box experiences that push me to think differently.
  • Beautiful mountains all around me.
  • Coffee, need I say more.
  • Modern medicine that keeps me healthy as I’ve experienced an extended season of sinus infections and migraines.
  • Access to good quality fresh food.
  • Laughter and a sense humor. The ability to find humor nowadays keeps life from getting too dark and feeling hopeless in many situations.
  • For the curiosity and purity of children, who can and will change the world!

 

“Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.”
― Barbara Brown TaylorAn Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

 

 

 

Ash Wednesday Thoughts

This year Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day which provides us with a lens that allows us to have a better view in how we experience this Lenten season and also reflect on how much we love Christ and how much we are willing to turn our lives over to Christ. The meaning of lent is for us followers of Christ to pause for 6 weeks of self-reflection through prayer and denying ourselves of things that typically would take our attention of from Christ.

For me this Lenten season, I will seek to deepen my faith in more tangible ways by being sure to have daily prayer and devotional time, by sharing God’s love with those I come in contact with, to seek understanding rather than confrontational, I will work better not to judge people based on what I believe to be ignorant and hurtful social media posts, I also will work harder to see the heart and humanness of those I come in contact with.

My hope is this Lenten season we will all seek to go deeper with our creator and have true self-reflection.

 

 

 

We’re Connected – Ubuntu

Last week I wrote about Making Empathy Great Again to start a conversation about how we all could be a bit more understanding and compassionate to those we come in contact with. This week I think it would be good for us to consider the ways in which we are different, yet all connected.

A word I was introduced to a few years back is Ubuntu it comes from the South African language known as Zulu and has been introduced to many by Bishop Desmond Tutu. The meaning of Ubuntu is often translated as the universal bond which connects all of humanity to one another, at its most basic definition it means “I am because we are”, the notion that we are universally connected and that we what connects us is much greater than what divides us.

I think about all of the things that I have found in common with others that have created friendships and realize the many things that we don’t have in common as well. I have plenty of friends that I don’t agree with on many topics but we have always been able to find commonality in some form and when we have conversations about those things that divide us we have been able to respectfully listen and disagree, which is becoming a foreign concept, so allow me to give us all permission to have friendships with those who don’t agree with us and also see the humanity in those who are different from us.

Now, back Ubuntu and what it means for us in a social climate that suggests we are not connected. We are connected through friendships, hobbies, book groups, causes that we care about, and our moral compasses that suggest we do good and treat others with respect. One place that I have found a common ground and place that reminds me how I am connected to all is the communion table in my church it reminds me that which unites us is much greater than that which divides us!

This post will also be shared on The Odyssey, which is an online community that allows individuals to share their thoughts and opinions. I write for the Western Carolina University Community, which can be accessed by clicking here.  

Make Empathy Great Again

 

 

Recently a friend of mine, Katherine, a talented and thoughtful artist created a stencil that says, “Make Empathy Great Again”, while that statement is a spin-off on our current Presidents’ pledge to “Make America Great Again”, I’ll say her statement has much more profundity! Over the past year we have all witnessed a significant shift in how we share our thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beliefs with others, we’ve become much more defensive and unwilling to hear others and meet people where they are; I’ve even noticed that in myself – less likely to hear someone out but quicker to damn and disagree – definitely not how we define empathy.

After talking with Katherine and pondering her thoughts on how we need to Make Empathy Great Again, I realized Katherine is onto something, something that we all need to consider and work towards!

In my profession as a church leader and child care director, I’m often in situations where share the pain and joys of others as they journey through life. I’ve walked with families through tough times like losing a family member, divorces, tough transitions, struggles with family members, celebrated the birth of children, marriages and so many other things that we encounter throughout this life. So, as I reflected on what it meant to have empathy and how to share it those I come in contact with for me it means to have genuine care and concern for those I encounter along this journey called life, it means that I share the hurts and pains of those that I care about. It means that I stop to listen and understand when a friend is in need. It’s my hope that we all can Make Empathy Great Again! Now go and do….

 

Katherine Coyne
Photo by Katherine Coyne

 

What to do?

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to part of several conversations centered around race and togetherness. While these conversations have been difficult and uncomfortable at times – they’re necessary as we look to the future and attempt to be more united rather than divided. And, if we’re all honest in recent years these conversations have become necessary as our social and political climate changes in a way that reminds that we have much more work to do when it comes to racism. I’ve found myself asking what we as a people can do to sort out the many complex issues and within in the past month or, so I’ve had the opportunity to have some conversations around race and how we become more united.

Within the past week I have attended a conversation and on race with author Michelle Alexander based on her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. One of the things she said during her talk was Each of us can do something more than we’re doing today without risking our lives. We’ve got to start there, by doing what we’re willing and capable of to advance this movement. If we do, collectively, we can shake the foundations of the system.” I’m personally appreciative of Michelle Alexanders encouragement for us and I believe that we all can do something to advancement a movement of togetherness, understanding, and advocate for treating all people with kindness and respect.

This month my book club read Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson in his book talked about what it was like to grow up as the child of a progressive Methodist minister in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Tyson highlighted that schools in Oxford, NC didn’t desegregate until the 1970s which was surprising to me since my ignorance led me to believe that schools immediately desegregated following Brown v. Board of Education, so reading and learning that schools didn’t immediately desegregate blew my mind and startled me but also made me think about how school systems across America are having conversations about equity now in 2018 and it baffles me that we are finally realizing equity needs to be discussed and that we aren’t putting our best practices forward.  Reading this book put in perspective for me that the civil rights movement wasn’t that long ago and made me in many ways question a lot of what is going on in America currently as we experience civil rights issues with a different lens.

Needless to say, a lot of this left me wondering what my response to issues of race should be as an African American male living and a majority white small town in Western North Carolina, well that’s for me to figure out and don’t worry I’ll keep you updated. In the mean time I wrote this prayer:

God, Our Creator and Redeemer,

Make it our mission to fully live out the words of Micah 6:8 as we journey together. Help us to understand what it means to do justice – help us to see that justice is what it looks like to share radical love with your people publicly as Cornell West eloquently said.  Help us to know that loving kindness is loving all of your people and being change-agents that speak truth to power and advocate of all people, that we realize we’ve created you, God, in our own personal image when we believe you hate the same people we do. Help us to understand that walking humbly means that we walk with you through this journey of life and that we allow your words and sprit to renew us and to shape and mold us into the who it us you have created each of us to be, servants for you, sharing your unwavering love with all that we come in contact with.  Amen.

 

Friends, we have work to do.

 

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Most mornings I read Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. Click Here to check out an online version of this book.

“Lord, free us from our self-deception and attune our hearts to your Spirit, that we might remember how you humbled yourself, and learn to serve one another, whatever our disagreements. Amen.”
― Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals