A smoker’s lung and local youth…
In ten days, it’s the Global Youth Initiative Week. This John Maxwell Team initiative means that coaches and trainers around the world go out to schools, youth organizations, community groups and clubs to bring anti-bullying awareness to children and youth. We do this on a voluntary basis, to add value to the world we live in.
I have never hosted a Global Youth Event before, and I decided very late to give it a go this year. I dove into the Youth Max training and have been listening to calls non-stop for a week. It was not perfect timing reaching out to schools and youth centers in the middle of our two-week Easter break.
In spite of that, today I managed to make a deal with “Service Streetwork”, a non-profit organization offering martial arts training, dance and other physical activities to help multi-cultural youth with a better social integration. The manager is my kickboxing partner from back in the days when I used to compete.
We haven’t spoken for at least 10 years. I decided to call him, just to try, before going to the gym. What a great call that was! He was all-in and very happy for the opportunity to collaborate to support the youth. It felt good.
After we hung up the phone, I said out loud “Oh my God, what have I done? Can I do this? How will I add value to these kids? Am I really ready to make a difference…”. I did my workout and drove home, still wondering if I am doing the right thing.
I had to stop at the gas station. There was a lady in front of me buying tons and tons of cigarettes. As she was filling up three plastic bags, I saw the boy hiding behind her. He’s from my village. He’s 12, goes to my children’s school. I talk to him when he passes our house and he’s even been to play a couple of times. I invited him to get to know him, with the intention that it would make him more “friendly” with my children. He’s a trouble maker with divorced parents. When there’s an incident in school, he’s always involved.
I greeted him with a smile and he nodded shyly. He looked scared and embarrassed. I understood why. I would also not feel so good if my mother emptied a gas station for cigarettes. I felt sorry for him. He looked smaller than usual as he was turning away, not to have to look at me.
I saw him study the large cigarette packs stacked at the checkout. Suddenly, his eyes met the image of a lung from a heavy smoker with the text “smoking kills”. The lung looked nothing less than disgusting. His body twitched as if he’d had an electric shock. His face exposed his every thought and feeling about the image. He looked at his mother, petrified, and then back at the image.
I could hear his thoughts “oh my God, I have to tell her!”, meaning, “I have to save her”.
-Mommy. Look! He said and nodded at the photo.
His mother reacted with what can only be the “shit, why do they put these friggin images so that kids can see them” shrug, and hurried packing up her cigarettes.
I tried, with all my forces, to send a silent message to the boy. I wanted to reach out to him and say, “don’t look at that, your mom will be ok”. I wanted to take him by the hand and go for a walk, get out of there, away from that picture, talk about football and skateboards, or even Pokemon. I wanted to take away the fear he felt about all the cigarettes his mother will be smoking. I wanted to take away his pain and “save him”.
I also wanted to tell the mother to deal with her “shopping” when she was not accompanied by her child. I wanted to tell her to act as a better role model for her little boy. I felt angry, with all the parents who fail to deliver a good role model for their children. Angry, and sad.
As I sat in my car and drove home, I reflected on what had just happened. I’m from Sweden, where religion is not a strong ingredient in the upbringing, not in school, nor in families. At least not where I grew up. I have not had a relationship with God.
Moments before I had said out loud:
“God, what have I done, am I ready for this, can I really add value to the youth”.
And now; God was IN MY FACE. God, the Angels, the Universe, whoever it was – it couldn’t have been said any clearer. I need to follow through and deliver a Global Youth Initiative event. As many as possible.
Independent of how “ready” I feel to deliver, there is no doubt that I am “ready enough” and that there is a great need for role models.
There are children out there who need to be seen, heard and understood, who don’t have the luxury of having a role model in their parent. Be there for them!
Global Youth Initiative, I am IN! Officially registered and READY to add value to local youth.
“For all the children, who need a Champion”.