It is in the day-to-day family interactions that either self-esteem blooms or the spirit is broken, flames of anger lit and seeds of hostility and resentment are sewn. For some years our teenagers, who are at a very vulnerable stage, have fallen prey to ills that throw them off the path to reaching their full potential. Ills are readily identified – truancy, drugs, gangs and currently murder. While there is much agreement that the cause is low self-esteem, there is not a sufficient response in terms of prevention or healing. We continue to do the things that we’ve always done – expecting different results. Money is poured into programs to deal with the symptoms but it would be wise to start at the beginning – the root and that is the family. Yes, regardless of the family history, we can make a difference.
Oddly enough, at this level it doesn’t require the massive amounts of money that the existing programs dealing with symptoms do, but it does require time and openness. Perhaps that is the problem. In this country we may have reached the point where we don’t know anything else to do but spend money and finance nonworkability. However, if parents and family members are willing to take responsibility, we can put purpose back into our lives and by doing so, support our young adults in finding a purpose for their lives and end the current trend towards self-destruction.
For the most part, we parent the way we were parented or our interpretation of the way we were parented. Just as our parents could have benefitted from additional information in their time, we definitely need to update our skills since the environment has not stood still for the last half-century, or ten or five years for that matter. Today, our children live in an environment where lives are taken daily in some form of violence that’s becoming as acceptable as the television shows or movies watched for entertainment.
Most of us became parents as a result of having sex, not as a result of some design or plan. Our child-rearing has followed the same path. We play it by ear – not with a design or plan. For some of us we set goals that the culture has deemed “correct”. That is simply not sufficient. In case you are reading this and haven’t discovered your purpose in life, give yourself permission to do that now. But if you are a parent, you owe it to yourself and to your offspring. We owe our children more than continuing this “Compare and Compete” drama that’s been going on with Europeans for much too long. Our children are born with innate genius, as were we. The time is long overdue for us to retrieve it. However, it can’t be done by watching TV. It requires experiencing activities that bring a high level of satisfaction or experiencing a strong negative emotional reaction which in that case might indicate a purpose to create change. So the goal of the “Search for Self” is to discover one’s purpose that gives you a sense of excitement or contentment while contributing to peace and harmony among human beings.
My path to discovering my purpose began after three children and pregnant with the fourth. I was told in an astrology reading that my purpose was to communicate with my fellow man. Brother Malliet, the astrologer, commented: “That’s difficult to do having a baby every year”. My question was “Communicate what?”
After my seventh child was born I began typesetting at Black News. I wrote a few articles, transferred credits from Brooklyn College to Long Island University, changed my major from Accounting to Journalism. After a few years of freelancing, my oldest son died and it was at that point I realized what I was to communicate: Developing Self-Esteem in African-American Youth.
Attending seminars at the National Black Theatre led to taking the EST training where I recalled buried wounds: my father drinking on weekends, searching for his gun and my mother grabbing me by the hand and running to a neighbor’s house to stay overnight. I remember my father returning home one weekend overjoyed that he had met his father for the first time. I later learned that his father was also his uncle married to his mother’s sister. He discovered his father as an adult.
We must create community where adults can communicate their pain. We must create community by healing relationships with each other. We owe it to our children. We owe it to future generations. We owe it to ourselves.