A few weeks back, we learned something new. We learned something new because we did something new and completed a week of camp at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. Frankly, it was uncomfortable.
Each morning, as we waited to greet campers as they arrived with their parents in carline, I noticed a difference in the music that I could hear played in each car. On Tuesday, we began integrating our camp with the camp and church groups that were also using the amazing facility- a $70M space. We asked our older Matt Paul Sports kids-half suburb and half city-to compete against the Kroc camp kids who had been training together for several weeks. There was some hesitation and trepidation–from players and coaches alike! However, after a few timeouts, our kids settled down and simply played and did well. As I think about the purpose and mission of the Kroc Center, funded initially by the founders of McDonalds, I know they were smiling down on the environment that they’ve created for these families, all of them.
I met a former world boxing champion on the turf fields of the Kroc. He was playing with his kids. We chatted for a few minutes about life, philosophy and what he wants for his kids. The takeaway for me, he wants the same that I do for my kids: opportunity.
I also met Jim Ellis, a nationally recognized swim coach who took a group of kids from North Phila (PBR) to new heights and levels in the 90s, so successful that a Disney movie (Drive) was made about them.
I now understand that today’s youth is not doomed, as the media will anxiously predict. Today’s youth simply needs me and others to be better, smarter, and to lead the way in all things positive. They need parents, local leaders to help teach them what they don’t know and don’t understand.
Today’s parents are doing the best they can, and we all need to do better, especially in understanding that we can’t let our our fears and models of the world affect those of the next generation.
We all share common hopes and dreams for out kids: opportunity. Let’s allow them the opportunity to understand that we’re all the same inside. Let’s teach them that we all have a choice, to do right. And finally, once we do understand, let’s create the space to be understood.