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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Give Of Yourself

Happy Holiday Season!

I was recently part of a conversation regarding self-esteem and the role it plays in youth development. Questions abounded about what it is and what promotes it.

Well, in the late 80's I had the privilege of chairing the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem, Personal and Social Responsibility. The initial response to this work was a bit of "only in California would they study self-esteem" - and being parodied in Doonesbury for two weeks. In the end, the three years of work earned considerable respect for our scholarly findings showing that self-esteem, and personal and social responsibility are core to one's health and a vibrant society.

The three core ingredients that promote self-esteem are simple and yet profound: a feeling that you belong, being acknowledged for your efforts, and being recognized for your achievements.

Realizing this, it then becomes apparent that isolation is the most debilitating wound a young person, or anyone, can experience. The only way we can combat isolation is to be involved with our children, not abandon our older adults, and be inclusive everywhere and every way we can. This is a siren for why mentoring is so important, and for communities to come together and become places where people feel they belong, are acknowledged for their efforts, and celebrate their achievements.

My wife, Kate, founded a school 35 years ago and has worked tirelessly to have it be not only an exemplary school but also an extraordinary community. Everyone feels like a valued member of this school community. During challenging times, I have observed this very special community excel in pulling together on behalf of those who needed support. A community like this models both personal and social responsibility.

Working with the 8th graders at the school, I marvel at how resonant they are to understanding the myriad choices they have each and every day, and recognizing the consequences of every decision they make. This is the very core of Lifeplan, a journey of choices, decisions and consequences. In the end, our lives are defined by the choices we make and they are ultimately OUR responsibility. Having a young person understand that is indeed a gift.

I firmly believe it is at our core to be there for one another, to give of ourselves. What an appropriate time it is, during the holiday season, for us all to celebrate community and foster inclusiveness by giving the greatest gifts of all: our time, our thoughtfulness, and our love.

Happy Holidays!

All the best,



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