Everyone can help to improve a child’s life

Laura McGowan
Aeronautical Systems Center

I like this year’s African- American History Month theme, “Reaching out to youth: a strategy for excellence” because it’s targeting the resources of the future – our children.

For me it ties in with the words of Elie Wiesel, a Jew who was deported by the Nazis to the Auschwitz concentration camp with his family in 1944 when he was a teenager. He is currently a professor in humanities at Boston University.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference,” Mr. Wiesel said.

I don’t think people intend to be indifferent. I think it just happens. Their lives’ hurried schedules don’t lend to reaching out to their own children – let alone, somebody else’s. How do I know?

Since December 2000, I’ve been a single parent. My son is now 19 and recently married. My daughter is 13. After their dad left us in 1999, my life as a stay-at-home, work-part-time-as-a-college-instructor,

PTA-president-mom life ended abruptly. I didn’t have much time to sit back and take a breath.
My children immediately spiraled, acting out their hurt and fear of not having their dad with them. My 14-year-old son regularly exploded with anger and my 8-year-old daughter cried every day. People at church told us they were praying for us and family members were in different states.
The bottom line is that everyone was so busy with their lives that they were indifferent. They didn’t mean to be – it just happened.

Some people feel they aren’t qualified to mentor someone else. They may not feel smart enough, successful enough, the right race, etc. If you fall into that category, hear this: my children could not have cared less about the color of your skin, what kind of car you drove or if you would buy them things. A regular e-mail or phone call just to talk to them or see how they were doing in school, home or sports would have brought a smile to their faces.

Ask yourself a few questions:
– Am I regularly involved in another child’s life outside of my own family? Why not?
– Do I know of a family that might appreciate making myself available to their child in a safe environment such as school lunchtime or homework help?
– Do I have a hang-up if the child’s family is of a different race?
– Do I know a child who is interested in the same things my children are interested in, and can I include that child periodically in a scheduled event?

If you don’t have a clue on where to start making a difference, contact your local educational outreach office. They can help you to be a big brother or big sister, a tutor or a job shadowing mentor. .

As we recognize the upcoming African-American History Month, let’s reach out to our children. Who knows, you may touch the life of the next Rosa Parks, Chappie James, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., teacher, doctor, military leader, president of the United States or a wonderful stay-at-home-PTA mom.  (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)