As caring parents our purpose is to provide the love, environment, and structure necessary to support the healthy upbringing of the children we bring to the world, thus giving them a strong foundation and fair chance at life. Sometimes we think that providing all the economic advantages available is the gateway to a successful childhood experience. However, not all youth get to enjoy this apparent advantage. Some in fact, may be suffering because of it.
Watching life through the eyes of our technological advances; tv’s, phones, laptops, tablets and on-demand video, we are witnesses to the plight of millions of people living in war-torn areas, conflict-centered zones, migrant make-shift villages, and famine-infested, public hazard waste in which the hardest-hit victims are the children brought into a circumstance where suffering appears to be their only destiny.
According to UNICEF, nearly 250 million children around the world live in areas affected by prolonged violent conflict leaving them with emotional damage, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the possibility for an altered sense of reality caused by the violence witnessed; not the vision any of us would have for our children growing up.
Outside of this reality of injustice, abuse, attack and assault harbored by many countries and geographic areas around the world, we in the west have the opposite spectrum. In civilized countries like the United States where advance, modernity, education, and opportunity are abundant resources for all to profit from, we are encountering a dichotomy that beckons profound understanding.
Despite the ongoing presence of opportunities for growth, education and empowerment, the safety, security and existence of its youngest citizens is being challenged and compromised. From the in-vitro stage, to the fetal phases of development, to the full development of baby and toddler to the pre-teen and teenager years, our youth are suffering no matter where they stand.
As if suffering were not enough, they are also paying the price with their lives. Take for instance the latest attack on their livelihood; the Valentine Day High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead; 15 of them teenagers killed by the lone hand of a distraught 19-year old former student Nikolas Cruz.
Not only was their livelihood taken, but the quality of life and existence of every other child in school in America was forever transformed that day. Gone are the days when you would not think that ‘your school may not be the next target’ of a lone-ranger, emotionally distraught youth taking revenge on their self-made hunting ground.
Until this shooting, which has now erupted into a national movement mobilizing anti-gun reform carried forth by a group of youth advocates who are survivors of that fateful day, youth in the west were not suffering from characteristics linked to the physical state of being; -a lack of food, hygiene, health care, education, shelter, or even intellectual stimulation as it is common in other parts of the world. Instead their suffering came from a lack of emotional resourcefulness, practical ability and a lack of spiritual essence and personal identity.
Lacking the environmental circumstances of physical need and economic challenges, these youth have been growing up accustomed to a ready-made society where their most pressing needs and desires are met without much effort on their part. Without the accountability, patience, gratitude, humility, thanksgiving and resilience created by hardship and depravation, these youth lack the fortitude necessary to confront the difficulties and uncertainties of ordinary life.
Fortunately for the youth of the world, we are seeing the silver lining in this tragedy. Youth are mobilizing themselves and taking on an identity of true warriors for the lives and the livelihood of others. Their focus is not on themselves and their direction is one of national change to improve the lives of many. With a hashtag # movement of #NoMore and the #MarchForOurLives marking the cause, many advantages and changes are already taking course.
Out of ashes come hope and out of hope will come transformation. We are fortunate to be living in a time where change is possible if we only focus on what we have, rather than what we are missing.
Sandra M “Catalyst” Bueno is a Youth Empowerment and Visionary Leadership Coach with extensive experience working in youth ministry and hispanic youth group formation. Sandra is founder of Mpowered 4Life Academy LLC providing resources, education and strategic life coaching solutions to youth, parents, school-group and ministry clients in Cary, North Carolina. Her current project is marketing the Rise 2Win 4 OUR YOUth Movement as a coaching platform to equip youth ages 13-21 with the interpersonal skills, emotional mastery and belief-system necessary for effective and long-lasting 21st Century Leadership.
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