Courage, Friends: Good Words for the New Year

I thought, you know what we need? Some encouragement. And then I thought about one of the most encouraging people I know, Justin Clark, Executive Director of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Charleston. I’m honored to bring you his words today.

Happy New Year! That’s what we are supposed to be saying to one another this week, right? I don’t know about you all, but it has felt like just one big time dump since March 2020 – between Club closings, mask mandates, navigating vaccines, VIRTUAL LEARNING, and all of the other challenges we’ve had thrown our way. You add Betty White dying to the mix and I’m just not feeling celebratory at all these days. 

Betty White Gala GIF by The Paley Center for Media - Find & Share on GIPHY

And I know that if I’m feeling it – that feeling of exhaustion and frustration (and truthfully for me, fear of what new level of the Hunger Games is coming next) from all that we’ve experienced together, I can trust that our kids are feeling it too.

You’ve probably experienced too what many of us in the Movement have been talking about over in the BGCA Youth Development Professionals group on Facebook. Cranky members. Heightened behavior issues. Lack of engagement. It makes sense. The world has almost literally been on fire for two years. We as adults have been burned out, confused, frustrated…our routines disrupted, our plans interrupted, and our societal norms turned on their heads. So it makes sense that our members are feeling the same and responding in the way they know how. Doesn’t excuse behavior, but helps explain it. And truthfully it would be easy to grow weary, to question if what we do makes a difference, and to look at the job openings EVERYWHERE and decide that maybe, it’s just not worth it.

On Fire Help GIF by ADWEEK - Find & Share on GIPHY

As we kick off 2022, I encourage you to press in. Take a moment to remember why you joined this Movement in the first place. And recommit to doing whatever it takes to providing a world class safe and positive place for our members. In your context maybe that looks like implementing new ways to gauge input from members about your programming. Maybe it looks like providing Trauma Informed Care training for all of your staff – because let’s be clear, there has been widespread community trauma these last two years. Maybe it looks like brainstorming with your members how your Club can give back to your community specifically during this time. You know your kids better than anyone, so you know best what would or would not work in your Club. 

Whatever you do – let’s all commit to having an extra large Dolly Parton buffet sized serving of grace and empathy this year. For our members, for our staff, and for ourselves. Let’s, even as the dumpster fire rages outside our Clubs, continue to do whatever it takes to do the most good for those who need us the most — because they need us now more than ever

GIF by Dolly Parton - Find & Share on GIPHY

A common source of encouragement for me during these tumultuous months – er, years (!!) – has been the Youth Development Professionals group on Facebook. If you’re feeling like you’re sitting on an island alone yelling for Wilson, I encourage you to look it up and join us there. It’s a place for resources, support, encouragement, and a healthy dose of laughter. 

I’m looking forward, with eager anticipation, to see what we get to accomplish together this year. Let’s go do the thing. 

Justin Clark first joined the movement in 2014. He currently resides with his wife & rambunctious boys in Charleston, WV where he serves as the Executive Director of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Charleston. 

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