I Was a Teenaged Optimist. (Still Am!)

Optimism Rules:

Optimists Clubs do tremendous work all over the map, though mainly with and for young people. I’ve never paid any formal dues, but I am a member of My Own Private Optimists Club, and although I am no stranger to disappointment and frustration, I am a chronic optimist when it comes to youth. (About old farts like me, I have my doubts, but I can still contact my Inner Adolescent. Immaturity has its benefits.)

Shuffling Toward Maturity: I’ve been training as a facilitator for a series of Junior Youth programs offered by the Baha’i community. “JYs” are the 12-15-year-olds, that critically important and vulnerable group that we so often don’t know what to do with. They’re not children, but they don’t drive, either. The beliefs underlying these programs might be summarized as follows.

1. At 15, a young person really launches into the quest for maturity. (For some of us, it’s a long road!) There are clear ways to fuel this mission.

2. In our families, schools and neighbourhoods, we should recognize this mid-teen transition and prepare kids for it, rather than leaving them to their own devices (or those of advertisers). We can’t just passively wait for them to “get over” adolescence. There’s fun to be done!

3. At this age, young people have energy, idealism and TIME. Why not encourage in them a strong sense of purpose, commitment and, yes, optimism? (Consider the alternatives.) I found support for and renewal of my interest in the powers of youth, and look forward to working with kids right in my neighbourhood. The process has begun. I haven’t scared too many yet…


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