Mothers may not really come with eyes in the back of our heads or X-ray vision, but God did equip most of us with innate ability to see within our children their hopes, their dreams, their gifts and the potential they bring to this world. It is easy to see, care and serve our own children, and perhaps even in their friends, but what about the children on the “other” side of town, who speak another language, who wear ragged clothes to their inner city public schools, who may not have families of their own but move from house to house as wards of the state. Do we SEE them? DO we CARE, and DO we SERVE?
In Robert Putnam’s most recent book Our Kids, the American Dream in Crisis, he makes a clear case for the dire situation many of our country’s children are in and the significant threat that poses to us as a democratic society. Children born in the United States in mid 1900’s, including myself, were able to get a quality education and have opportunities for successful and satisfying futures regardless of where they were born or the economic status of their parents.
Today in most cities, public schools provide very inadequate education, not to mention the lack of extracurricular activities in the arts or sports that once helped kids thrive. Today, it is as though a child born in the “wrong zip code” is doomed for a life of failure.
We cannot allow this situation to continue for two very important reasons: (1) We are throwing away lives through lost potential, and (2) Our democratic society depends on an informed and engaged citizenry. The opportunity gap that exists is widening quickly and must be addressed. They are ALL our children.
I am the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County, where we serve over 3,000 youth, 6-18 years old, who come from impoverished families and neighborhoods, attend grossly underfunded schools, and lack positive adult role models. When you really SEE these children and teens, including seeing their potential, you can’t help but CARE and find ways to SERVE.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs we serve by providing a safe, positive place for them to be after school and during school breaks. When school is OUT, Clubs are IN! By providing academic support, enrichment activities and positive role models, we absolutely can help bridge the damaging opportunity gap that grows wider by the years.
Here’s just one example. Jessica started coming to the BGC when she was 13 because her foster mom was told she couldn’t be left alone after she tried to commit suicide. She had been in 11 foster homes. When I SAW Jessica, I saw a young lady with immeasurable potential in spite of the fact that her mother had been physically and emotionally abusive and her dad had been in prison her whole life. At the BGC, positive adults CARED about her: She became our Club’s Youth of the Year, followed by Oklahoma’s Youth of the Year, landing $35,000 in scholarships. We SERVED Jessica, and she graduated from the University of Oklahoma last December! She wants to SERVE in return and plans to write a book about her BGC experiences because she sees, she cares and she will serve!
They are ALL our children. It is our responsibility as people of faith and protectors of our democratic way of life to provide opportunities for them to reach their God-given potential. Please look for ways to SEE, CARE and SERVE in your community!
Jane Sutter is the 2018 Oklahoma Mother of the Year. You can read more about Jane HERE.