SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Friday, October 15, 2010

Birthday Thoughts and Wishes

Oct. 15 is my birthday, and I share it with Nieszche, P.D. Wodehouse, Barry McGuire, and, well, as my sister Marcela put it in her voice note today, "the list goes downhill from there." So, on this occasion, I'm going to indulge in a highly personal post. It's my privilege, after all.

Today my niece Kerry's second son, Bode, arrived. How can you beat that for the greatest birthday present ever. I went out to a wonderful dinner and received plenty of thoughful calls and cards and highly personalized and lovely Facebook messages, some from friends I haven't seen in way too long. And there's an invitation to a premier on Oct. 25th, extending my birthday well into the future. I'd like to keep celebrating like that.

In return for all the love, I have a smattering of thoughts I'd like to share back. My current biggest concern is how to help youth, and really encourage and support them. Recently, a gay college student jumped off the GWB after being cruelly outed by his roommate on the Internet. His story made headlines around the world, and I wish he knew the care he catalyzed, and hadn't had to die to get people to care. It's a world where too much that is tragic happens to the young, and where it's harder than ever to grow up with hope. It's a world thriving with technology but struggling to communicate, where people often sit across from one another in restaurants texting on their cell phones or emailing other people while ignoring one another.

I ask myself often: What kind of a world are we ushering our kids into? Where is the intimacy, trust and love? We have to show it to them, support their sharing and creativity, demonstrate the humanity that is there and encourage them to have faith that it will be there for them when they need it most.

Two organizations that are doing truly valuable work with teens are worthy of mentioning here. One is The Trevor Project, dedicated to combatting suicide prevention among LGBT teens. It provides an online community, statistics and helpful resources for families and teens. The other, J.K. Livin, started by actor Matthew McConaughey in 1993, helps kids create healthy lifestyles. The Foundation has partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS), the country's largest dropout prevention organization. Celebrity support is helping these organizations grow, but they are looking for help from regular folks too.

Whether you have children or not -- and I don't -- you simply can't deny the importance of passing along a peaceful, kind and helpful legacy to the young, as they ARE our future.

Although I never had kids, I've been blessed as a teacher to know some of the most awesome students, kids I saw flower before my very eyes -- when they were encouraged and supported  -- and incredibly loving and blessed nephews and nieces. Their talents aside, they are loving and kind --they think of others; they want to help their neighbors -- even across the globe. They believe in the power of love and hope.

I don't worry about them so much as I do those kids without guidance or hope, turning to drugs or fantasizing about dying as if it's an ultimate high. Big news -- You don't come down or return when you jump off a bridge. These are the kids that worry me, and some are gay and some are not. But they are all burdened with tremendous pressure, more than ever before. We made their world, and we have to help them bear the burden of it in these very challenging times.

I'm convinced I have to help. Those of us who were delinquent youths, or drug or alcohol abusers, those of us who made it through into our adulthood know how challenging growing up can be. It's more challenging now, and it's not terribly complicated: The young need our help, and we can't turn our backs on them or let them grow up alone.

Please, if anyone has suggestions about how to help struggling youth locally, share your ideas with me. I know there's a lot one can do. But your suggestions and experience mean a lot and can add to the pot of caring.

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