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By Joseph Boles

This issue of OCL explores the wonderful world of kids… organizations dedicated to kids, that is! When you combine intelligent, inquisitive young minds with adults whose passion is the broadening of a child’s world of experience what you get is the raising of the adolescent level of engagement that we have in our community. We have the best school system in the state and the best and brightest being challenged and educated on many levels. Thank God for these organizations, because not all kids are easy to work with by any means. In fact some of the organizations are aimed at the frail and fragile, the hostile, the fringe dwellers, and the “lost sheep.” These good community shepherds reach out and engage those kids, the “tough ones.”

Let’s remember that no kid starts out ruined, or as an old curmudgeon once said, “That boy is just “rurnt!” But that boy he was opining about didn’t get “rurnt” (or “ruined” I guess) by himself. For every difficult kid, there is a reason that we may never know. Sometimes it’s a parent that had a difficult upbringing themselves. The good book says, “the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon generation after generation.” I used to think that was unfair, but now I realize if your father beat you as a kid you will probably beat your kids, too. That goes for your work ethic, your interest in education or religion and just about everything. “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree” is truer than any of us care to admit. To break that cycle, you have to acknowledge your upbringing, forgive whoever didn’t give you what you needed and move on to correct yourself with honesty and self-compassion. It helps to have the assistance of people who can be honest with you and in whom you trust!

These organizations are committed to helping kids heal those childhood wounds so life can just get “better.” They do that with play, education and activities, all with continuing contact with compassionate and caring adults, usually all trained volunteers. Kids can get a breath of fresh air blown into their lives. They see smiles and hear supportive language. They get a pat on the back instead of a slap in the face. Hugs instead of hits. Sure, the kids all have to go back to their less than perfect living situations, but at least for a while they get a respite from being treated like they are the ones to blame. A kid can’t understand the surliness of his father who can’t find a job. Mom doesn’t share her sickness that sends her to bed every evening after work leaving her kids to fend for themselves. So for a few hours every week the interaction with their coaches, tutors and counselors all helps balance out some of the “shortness” of life from overworked and unavailable parents. It is also vital in those situations where there is intentional neglect and abuse which is all too common. And remember, great parents can have difficult kids, too, so some extra people caring about your challenging child is just a benefit.

Growing up in a little town in North Carolina I was not abused or neglected. I was lucky because life was safer back then or at least we felt safer. I never heard about a kid being abducted.I never heard of a kid being killed in a “drive by shooting.” I never knew anyone that got removed from his parent’s home (I did have a friend that lived with his grandparents but my mother wouldn’t tell us why. I think back then people had more privacy about their personal tragedy. So I was blissfully ignorant).

I played outside after school until suppertime. Then I would go back outside and play “kick the can” under the street lights until it was time to go home to bed. No one ever got hurt really bad (a few stitches maybe), because we weren’t doing anything dangerous…except climbing trees.

As a kid, the most dangerous thing we did was to climb trees. We were daredevils and all of us were self-taught. As a young fat boy, it was a little harder for me to climb but once I was able to struggle to the top my mind would clear. With the wind blowing in my face (drying the inevitable sweat on my brow from the exertion!), it was the closest I would get to heaven on earth. The adrenaline from the risk of falling, the heart pounding from the physical effort and the joy of the completion of the dangerous adventure was enough to take away all the cares of life, for a little while anyway.

But kids don’t climb trees anymore. I sure wish they did because it brings all the risk and reward that a little person needs to experience. Life will be challenging enough, soon enough. So if you have any kids in your life encourage them to go climb a tree. In twenty-five years they will thank you.