The Character Movement

These Are Our Kids

By Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO

Recently, I was a chaperone on one of my daughter Tess’s fifth-grade field trips. We were at a ropes course in the woods on a platform about 50 feet up in the trees. I proudly watched as my daughter swung from tree to tree with a huge grin on her face. She was so brave and was enjoying every moment.

The next kid on the course was a boy who was more timid than “Tarzan Tess.” Halfway across the 50-foot high wire, he froze with fear. I was on the platform watching and, truthfully, I was feeling a bit smug thinking of my daughter who had raced across the wire just a few minutes earlier.

The boy’s mom was on the ground below and she was shouting encouragement to her son and pleading for him to be careful. She was scared for him.

During that moment, the smugness I had felt quickly left my heart and I cheered and coached him to get to the platform – just as I would have done for my daughter if she had been scared. Because that boy was not just her son – he was a member of my community and in a way, he was also my responsibility. He was “my son” too.

This was an easy thing to do as a chaperone on my daughter’s field trip, but when a situation gets really tough, it takes an effort to be the supportive, encouraging force that our young people often need. We forget – or we chose to ignore – that we have a responsibility in those situations too.

As you know, our world has been full of bad news lately. It’s so easy to think of people in the news as the “other” – maybe we feel that their experience is too far from our own so we could never relate to them.

But, until we get to the understanding that all kids are our kids, many of the challenges that we face with young people in our communities won’t be solved. It’s no longer enough to just live ethically in our own comfortable world – our situation is too serious for that. We need to make a mental shift and see all kids as our kids.

We need to support and guide every kid as if they were our own. We need to challenge them to live with kindness and respect toward others. We need to be reflective, ethical mentors and show them how to engage a community with civility and character. We need to take responsibility for them.

Every day on Youth Frontiers retreats, we meet and see young people who give us reasons to have hope. We see students who use their gifts to respond to our world in ways that make things better. We also see students who really struggle and whose situations and circumstances are often much tougher than we can imagine. It’s our purpose to help guide all of these students in the right direction and give them opportunities to be leaders. Because these kids are important. Because these kids are our kids.

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