ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

RECLAIMING TROUBLED YOUTH

We’ve been hearing a lot about troubled young people recently.  Bad news has a way of focusing our attention on what’s wrong with the rising generation.  But while there is every reason for concern, there is also every reason for hope.  And to prove my point I’d like to give you some good news for a change. I’d like to tell you about Greg.

I first met Greg when I was assigned to teach a class of 8-year-olds at church.  It was a wonderful experience because, for the most part, the children were adorable.  They’d listen to my stories, laugh at my jokes and at least pretend that they enjoyed being with me.

Then there was Greg.

Don’t get me wrong – he was a good kid, and I liked him.  But he was . . . well . . . a little out of control.  He was disruptive in class.  He’d say hurtful things to the girls in the class, and then smile at me when I told him that was unacceptable.  And he was the first kid I ever saw who would get so worked up that he would literally start bouncing off the walls.  He’d stand in one corner of the classroom, dash across the room and hurl himself against the wall.  Then he’d do the same thing going back the other direction, laughing a kind of frenzied little laugh every step of the way until I was finally able to make him stop.

As you might expect, this could be somewhat disconcerting to the rest of the class.  But I never sensed any malice in Greg.  He was a sweet boy with a good heart who just did weird stuff.  And while I occasionally had to get after Greg, we got along with each other and became friends.

As I became more familiar with Greg and his family I found that he had a learning disability that made it difficult for him to concentrate.  As a result, he had a hard time at the local elementary school – academically and socially.  The other kids hassled him, and some teachers had a hard time understanding him.  Greg was a handful, and they didn’t have time to give him the special attention he obviously needed.

Thankfully, Greg’s parents did.  With fierce love and concentrated determination they helped their son learn how to succeed.  Friends and neighbors were enlisted to tutor Greg in school subjects that puzzled him.  Sports became a way of harnessing Greg’s boundless energy while teaching him important lessons about hard work, discipline and obedience.  Boy Scouting reinforced those lessons while exposing him to new experiences, opportunities and adventures.  Greg’s parents volunteered to help at school, in sports leagues and as Scout leaders to make sure that their son received the training and supervision he needed to learn how to be successful.

And if there’s one word that described Greg as a high school student, that would be it: successful.  He earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.  He was a member of one of the state’s best high school football teams.  And one term he even earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  He sang in the church choir, participated enthusiastically in every activity or service project that came along and was a pleasant, happy neighbor and friend.

One time when he was a high school senior I was asked to substitute in one of Greg’s classes at church.  Throughout the class period he was a model of proper behavior and decorum: calm and well-mannered, thoughtful in his comments and questions, profoundly kind to me and to his classmates.  And believe it or not, he didn’t bounce off any walls.  Not even once.

Greg had become an exemplary young man.  But more than that, his story is an eloquent real-life example of how troubled young people can be reclaimed by loving, devoted parents and supportive neighbors, friends, coaches and teachers.  What Greg’s parents did for their son may not work for every child.  But it certainly worked for Greg.

And that’s good news indeed – for Greg, and for the rest of us.

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— © Joseph Walker

For more ValueSpeak, please visit http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm

E-mail Joseph at: valuespeak@msn.com 

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Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit 


"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.