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Rodgers Speaks recently presented to the residents of the Crosspoint Transitional Facility, which is a faith based halfway house for men who are transitioning from incarceration. We used the analogy of a sports season as a comparison to what we experience in seasons in our lives. They were a great audience!

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I recently had a conversation with a student on my campus who will be graduating at the end of the school year. Like most seniors, the student was focused on his plans after graduation. He had already been accepted to a university. Naturally, I asked the young man about his plans for a major. He said he was thinking about choosing a major he felt would lead to lucrative employment. He admitted that it was possible he might not like that particular career field, but he could tolerate any type of work if he was making what he called “big money.”

I later reflected on the conversation, which basically turned into a discussion on money and motivation. All of us have either said or heard someone state, “If I made $______, I would do whatever _________ wants me to.” We all desire to be financially stable and prosperous. Granted, most of us aren’t offered work which will take us from rags to riches; however, I think most people look for and accept employment with the idea it will improve their financial situation, within context. The motivation money can provide will quickly wane if one does not derive enjoyment, satisfaction, or have a sincere desire to excel. That is why we are encouraged to do what we enjoy, because doing a job solely for money will not work in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, money is important and can ease many burdens in life.  I also understand how people may do work they may not particularly care for in order to accomplish a specific purpose, such as paying off debts or to starting a savings. However, our work consumes a large portion of our waking hours; it is important for us to do it well and be content. And yes, even work we enjoy can have drawbacks. The key is to find ways to earn a living that align with our strengths and interests. Are the majority of our youth equipped to make such a choice? If not, what can we do to lead them? More in future posts.

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The Holiday Season is a time for spiritual appreciation and fellowship with friends and family.  Unfortunately, popular culture is transforming the Holiday Season into a yearly occurrence of heightened consumerism.  The pressure to purchase and give seems to be increasing with each year that passes.

This Holiday Season, I have been encouraged to reflect upon how these pressures impact the high school students I teach.  I work at a school with an economically disadvantaged population of approximately 65%.  This means 65% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunches because their family income is near or below the poverty level.  I also have students whose families are considered homeless.  Fortunately, these families have shelter and working parents; unfortunately, they are unable to pay for their own residences due to circumstances.

My principal communicated to the faculty the need to have an increased awareness for “acting out” behaviors from our students during the Holiday Season.  I understand how a disadvantaged teen would feel highly frustrated during this time of year.  Teens are highly self-conscious and have a growing awareness of their circumstances compared to younger children.  Younger children tend to only “know what they know.”  Their world is very much parent centered and controlled; in many ways, this is beneficial in limiting influences, yet is harmful if the child has abusive parents.  On the other hand, teens are beginning to realize there is a much bigger world out there.  However, their ability to immediately improve their situations may be limited due to age and maturity.  The constant cycle of ads on television, radio, and online can impact impressionable minds.  Obviously, this leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration, resulting in certain moods and behaviors.  I’m sure we have a number of students who look forward to the holidays being over and returning to the routine of school.  Those of us who interact with youth need to have a heightened awareness for these issues during this time of year and be a light.