As the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program makes a positive impact throughout the globe, we are learning about young people’s potential to create powerful change.Continues below
We have a lot in common with young people all over the world, even though our cultures, backgrounds, and personalities may be different. One of our most important similarities is our readiness to make a change in the world. But before we can do that, we need to take a look at our own lives. Here are three questions to help you examine how the choices you make can contribute to social progress. So, go ahead and think about them or talk them over with a friend.
What goes into a decision? More than meets the eye. There are a lot of things that can influence our choices: some are negative, and some are positive. The career we choose might be influenced by our family’s expectations, and the clothes we buy might be influenced by the ads we see.
There are many social forces playing out in our lives — at home, work, school, even when we’re hanging out. Some of these influences help us to progress. For instance, a good coach can teach us the discipline we need to excel at sports. On the other hand, some influences hold us back. For instance, trying to achieve someone else’s narrow standard of physical beauty can be demoralizing, not to mention a distraction from our desire to change the world.
We often see the negative influences. They can be obvious, like conflict, gossip, violence, and economic inequality. Yet, we are challenged to see root causes as we try to address them. At the same time, we often overlook the positive forces that surround us, like the spirit of volunteerism and the firm hope that things can advance through our efforts.
Being able to recognize the influences in our lives helps us to make choices without falling prey to destructive forces. Perhaps, then, instead of contributing to systems that are causing harm, we can transform them for the better.
Many social forces are so pervasive and widespread that they can give the illusion that we have to make choices, even where there aren’t any to be made. Many of us feel torn between choosing a career that will bring personal success or one that will allow us to make a difference in our community. Do we continue the family business or go to college? Do we choose a path toward material wealth or one of spiritual well-being?
Perhaps these are not the questions that we should be asking ourselves. They might be choices that we don’t even have to make. We often see success defined by material wealth, something we’re encouraged to aim for at the expense of our spiritual well-being. Lying, cheating, and gossiping are all considered fair game in its pursuit. Or maybe we’re encouraged to pursue our personal dreams even at the expense of our communities, putting ourselves before others.
We believe there is another way. By being of service to others, even while we work and study, we are learning what personal and community development can look like if they are pursued jointly.
We don’t have to be perfect to try. We believe that there are three things everyone can do: work on our own spiritual health, serve others, and build true friendships. We can do all of these things at the same time — and they work hand-in-hand. Service to others strengthens our personal growth, our own development enhances our ability to serve others. Growing and serving alongside true friends gives us the encouragement and support to follow this path all our lives.
Young people have an important role to play in helping communities grow materially and spiritually. Not only that, but they can help mobilize older and younger generations to do the same. The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program brings together adults, adolescents, and children who are asking these questions and learning how to better our communities — not just materially, but spiritually as well.