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Teaching the Warriors Heart

Updated on July 28, 2014

One of my adorable, talented nephews is turning seventeen next week. Without partiality he is clearly a genius like all of my other nieces and nephews. He excels in academics, he's a drum major, musician, athlete, gourmet chef and is involved in many youth community projects. He has never been afraid to try something new. He has always been fearless. His parents have loved and encouraged him well (his aunts and uncles love him too). When I hear or read negative comments about the current generation of teenagers there is comfort knowing intelligent, educated people believe my nephew has the capacity to create positive change. Most importantly, he wants to make a difference. With his entire future ahead of him he has plenty of time to plan and decide what he wants to accomplish. Why not learn and experience as much as he can?

May of 2011, I read Eric Greitens amazing memoir, "The Heart and the Fist: the education of a humanitarian; the making of a Navy SEAL". Recently, Dr. Greitens wrote a young adult adaptation of the "Heart and the Fist" titled "The Warrior's Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage" . Greitens asks young girls and boys to search for ways to serve their own communities as he states in the following quote, "I am asking you to serve because we need you. We need you to use all of your unique gifts to make a difference in a way that only you can. There is almost no problem in the world that is not being solved by a young person somewhere." I knew I wanted to share Greitens story with my nephew who already demonstrates an adventerous spirit and leadership potential. "The Warriors Heart" was created to inspire young readers by contemplating scenarios where they will use their ethics and creativity to solve some of the worlds most pressing issues.

There are many memorable, heroic military service stories included in the "Heart and the Fist". The book is a wonderfully moving gift for those like my brothers and other men and women who have served in our armed forces. Eric Greitens inspires me not only as an author but as a humanitarian, educator, scholar, athlete, philanthropist and photographer. He is a true Renaissance Man. Greitens, who was already a Rhodes scholar when he joined the military evolved from his pain, fear and self-doubt by continuously challenging himself. Today he challenges recently returning wounded and disabled veterans to continue their service at home in their communities. He has emerged as an incredibly compassionate, strong, influential and resilient leader.

Greitens, as well as many other successful role models credit their parents, early mentors and teachers for guiding them in the right direction. How many of us are aware of children and teenagers neglected, ignored or simply marginalized by parents, teachers and society? Being a teenager is difficult. A little problem to us is a major disaster for them. Remember being so self-conscious you couldn't speak in class even if you knew the right answer? Teenagers must contend with their parents expectations, grades, socializing, bullying, hormones, acne, learning to drive, dating and choosing a career path and ug..... Would you want to go back? Most of us would shout a resounding "hell no"! However, if we desire progress and change in our communities we need to encourage children and adolescents to discover their unique skills, gifts, passions and bring them to the world. How do we encourage young people to get involved and care about the arts, technology, the planet, animals, humanity? Where do they learn confidence, courage and compassion? Look in the mirror. If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle big brother/big sister you are an influence on this generation.

There are not enough words to describe how proud I am of the little boy who once kept me endlessly entertained. Whether replaying the cell phone video clip his uncle captured of him singing "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga or his flawless memorization of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" lyrics, I adore my nephew. Whether he was impersonating Chester from Linkin' Park or screaming "Don't Stop Believing" out of my car window while he was learning to drive. He is loved. Whether he was being tricked into listening to his least favorite Arcade Fire song, "Wake Up" or making me nervous by doing backflips off the mailbox (please don't do that again)I love him. Tonight I asked my nephew for an inspiring philosophical quote. He texted back, "Live each day to the best because you can't make it out of life alive." Pretty profound for a soon to be seventeen year old. Well, he is a genius.

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