I believe that nobody’s kid deserves second best. This has become rule number one in my 20+ years of working in youth serving, volunteer based nonprofit organizations. Personally, it is proven in the hindsight of my own past, in how as a youth I would have many times welcomed second or third best efforts from the adults in my life. There were family problems, no positive adult support from my father and growing up on a dirt poor West Texas cotton farm…it was not until I became involved in a church, Scouting and school activities that I realized I had missed some things so many other kids took for granted.
Now, my mom gave it her all to raise my sister and me. To outsiders her efforts may have appeared second best. For example, to me the hand-me-down clothes she got from my cousin were like getting a package from Nieman Marcus…it did not matter that I was skinny as a rail and he was a linebacker in elementary school. Mom didn’t have resources, so she took on the volunteer jobs no one else wanted then would work impossible hours to keep us afloat. That lady lived the rule until her last day, shepherding a wayward young man at her dialysis center to take better care of himself and insisting he promise to do so. She passed away that night, not knowing the positive impact her effort would make.
In a small town, we know each other all too well. Back then, alcoholism and divorce were contagious, so most adults didn’t make much of an extra effort on my part. Fortunately, there were a couple of assistant scoutmasters, two English teachers, my Spanish instructor and some families of my friends that were there when I needed a place to stay, a ride or just the chance to hang out with a real family.
Because of their examples, that of my mother and the family I acquired through marriage, my belief has grown stronger, so much so I use it to train my volunteers. And for the same reasons, I must tell with them my second rule: people don’t change.
Sometimes we must face the reality that some people are giving lip service with no intention of carrying out their pledges of service, funding or materials. Kids have very limited expectations of adults and keeping promises is at the top of their list. They don’t know what they need but rely on us to take care of them. Rule number two means that the people that believe in rule number one must work harder, for much less thanks and with the knowledge that no good deed goes unpunished. Several folks have told me it negates rule number one and that I am a pessimist. No, I am not a pessimist nor am I victim. I am a veteran.
Now, I do have a third rule: never swing at a 3 – 0 pitch. But that’s another belief altogether.
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