- Mental Health»
Gratitude and how it relates to youth and civic action
Curiosity. Gratitude. Teamwork. Adventure. These are all things that should be cultivated in today’s youth for various reasons. I will expound upon which of these has been the most influential in my life and where I am today, and why I think it is important to encourage youth to focus on it and draw strength from it.
Gratitude has had a huge impact on my life in the big picture and every day. I make the effort to consider each day the blessings and positives I have in my life, especially if I am experiencing something particularly difficult. Taking that time to consider the positives helps me not only get through the tribulations, but also to direct me toward where I want to be in life.
For instance, one of the things I am grateful for, and that I have shared extensively in other blog posts of mine, is that I was adopted by such a wonderful and loving family. I have been given so much from the start when I was entitled to none of it, really. It’s so important to have a strong family foundation, or at least a foundation of good people you can count on, whether you are related by blood or not.
I also am grateful for my health. Every day I think about what COULD happen, and what has NOT happened healthwise, and I do not take for granted how much easier it is to get through the days without those issues.
These are just two of the things I think about every day, and they keep me going. I think about how much more difficult life would be without a great family, or with health issues, and yet with people succeeding through life who do experiences difficulties, I see no excuse why I should not do the same.
Considering these blessings also drives me toward helping others so that they may experience a happy and healthy life as well. I make the time to volunteer on various projects and issues, including education and homelessness, to try to improve the lots of others so they may make the best life for themselves that they can.
With this said, it is extremely important in my opinion for youth to consider the blessings in their lives so they may feel uplifted and driven to service as well. Oftentimes it is demoralizing or discouraging to see so much negativity in the world, whether in the news or on the streets. It is therefore key for youth to see that there is good in the world, in their lives, and that they can help engender good in the lives of others.
Gratitude, in addition to the other three qualities listed above, are all pillars of the Big Citizen Hub, a Saturday youth leadership development and skills-building program that runs from January through August involving young people from throughout the Los Angeles area. It is a little league for civic action; a space for young people to transform into Big Citizens and practice “daily democracy” with peers in their elementary, middle school, and high school groups. As these Big Citizens work together with community members and with near-peer team leaders, they expand their networks and create value for not only themselves, but also the community at large.
In January 2015, Big Citizen HUB will launch with 75 middle school participants (Big Citizens). A Big Citizen is someone who prioritizes active participation within their communities and larger society. Big Citizens are key today because we need a place to convene young people to practice daily citizenship. Increasingly, Americans – particularly young people – are losing faith in public institutions. A disengaged population quickly becomes a disenfranchised population. The large-scale challenges – social, environmental, economic – facing our globally connected world will require local person-to-person participation and solutions.
Big Citizen HUB is based on a recently discontinued program of City Year, Inc., the Young Heroes program. The Young Heroes program has a twenty-year proven track record that spanned across twenty-two markets in the U.S. Big Citizen HUB will borrow the successful structural pieces of Young Heroes – a diverse citywide population, out-of-school time, service learning, leadership development, young group facilitators/near-peer mentors – and will incorporate its own unique elements, including lengthened learning modules, and extended program period, and the inclusion of a final project for the Big Citizens to undertake.
I encourage you to consider how each of the Big Citizen pillars have affected your life, and to learn how you can support the Big Citizen youth program, or how you can be the Big Citizen you know that you can be.