"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
Parkland's Teen Leaders
By Amy Johnson, Outreach and Marketing Manager, PGK - Bay Area
I have been working with or for youth my entire adult life. So when the tragic events of Parkland, Florida occurred last month, I was rattled to the core on both a personal and professional level. It was too easy to imagine myself huddled together with students and colleagues at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Soon afterwards, I found myself consumed by media coverage of the event and its aftermath. I was overcome with emotion. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. But like many others, these feelings quickly changed. As if in an instant, I was swept up with new emotions. Hope. Inspiration. Pride. Following the event, Parkland teen survivors took immediate action and began to not just participate in, but lead, a national movement. Over the past month, Parkland teens have mobilized youth from all over the country, arranging marches, protests, and school walkouts, all of which have been captured and shared using social media.
The teens’ work has not just been for show; it has produced legislative changes. After making their voices heard at the Florida capitol, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to twenty-one and extending the waiting period to three days. Additionally, three major U.S. companies, Dick’s, Walmart, and Kroger, each announced they would no longer sell guns to customers younger than twenty-one and in some cases, no longer sell assault-style rifles. Dick’s CEO, Edward Stack, credited the policy change to Parkland teen leaders, "When we take a look at what those kids and the parents and the heroes in the school, what they did, our view was if the kids can be brave enough to organize like this, we can be brave enough to take these [assault-style rifles] out of here."
Regardless of your political leanings, the maturity and leadership shown by Parkland youth over the past several weeks is admirable. These teens have been able to start and sustain a national conversation about gun reform, a task adult representatives have been unable to do for decades. In considering this, I am once again filled with hope, inspiration, and pride. For if these teens can make great change in the wake of great tragedy, imagine what they can accomplish when given the best of advantages?
At PGK, we recognize - and applaud - the power of this new generation of leaders and change makers. We hope they continue to find their voices, and to use them for good. We only hope that next time, it need not come with such tragedy and sacrifice.
Take A Breath
By Jessica Barga, PGK Contributor
I hate to admit it, those three words that out of anyone else's mouth drive me crazy: I'm too busy.
The days blur by, leaving behind the vague feeling of running around and around on a hamster wheel. Get up, go to work, do chores and take care of other obligations; rinse and repeat. Especially during this time of year, when it's often too cold and dreary to even get outside and enjoy the sunlight, my days and weeks seem to run together into a grey monotony.
There is one respite: No matter how busy I get, I stubbornly force myself, each and every month, to attend the service project at my church. It takes about 30 minutes; you bring some sandwich-making supplies, throw together a few dozen bologna-and-cheese sandwiches, bag them up for the local homeless shelter, and you're done.
I try to make excuses: I'm (ugh) too busy. The smell of lunch meat makes me gag. I told someone else I'd do something. But the truth is, I need those 30-odd minutes a month just as much as the people receiving the sandwiches. It's a time when I can focus completely on someone else, not on myself. It's a time when I am humbled by a community coming together and the difference we can make - typically 2,000 sandwiches, enough to supply the shelter for a few days. And it's a chance to regroup and realize how lucky I am, that my day isn't made or broken by whether I receive a single sandwich to suffice for a whole day.
In today's world, it seems a me-me-me mentality has become the norm. I'm certainly not always an exception. But when the hamster wheel starts churning again, for just a few moments each month - a tiny sliver of my time - I'm able to focus on we, not me. And in these moments, I find a simple peace and stillness that's exactly what I need.
Cultivating Kindness NOW
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
Yesterday brought another historic tragedy, contributing to a narrative of violence not seen in any other western society. Why?! As a mother of four and a believer in the innate goodness of all people, I can't wrap my head around it, nor can I explain it to my kids. The loss of innocent young life at the hands of yet another child is not something to be explained, I suppose. There is just simply no way to make sense of it.
I'm sure in the days to come, a picture will be painted by the media offering ideas as to how this came to pass, but the full truth will likely never be known. Regardless of the reasons, it should be a wake-up call for all of us - not to put more armed guards at the door of every school, but to arm ourselves and our children with love, to fight back not with more violence but with more tolerance and empathy, so the next youth who is crying out for help - of whatever kind - gets the support he or she needs before they go to such extremes.
Regardless of the storyline that may be developed around what led to this, the reality is every life is an accumulation of moments and experiences that shape us. As parents, every day we make choices about how we spend our time and how our kids spend theirs. Things like serving others and partaking in experiences that cultivate understanding and empathy too often fall in line behind math tutors, soccer tournaments and, sadly, even video game time. As we mourn this latest tragedy, let us remember we have the opportunity to be a force for good in the lives of our kids, their friends, and our communities. It is our job to help them, guide them, and teach them in all of the little moments that present themselves each and every day to be bearers of love, compassion and kindness. If we don't, we will be part of the reason why this inexplicable narrative continues.