One goal of Ethos is bringing adults together along side young people through relationships and stimulating positive change to youth culture. The end goal of this would ultimately overflow into society as they grow up in this community. And for someone like me, doing this for about eight years, it can be exhausting and discouraging as such changes are not so immediate and obvious. I want to see results. I like knowing that I can be effective. However, that is not how life always works. And to be honest with you, I’m glad it doesn’t. Perhaps some of you can relate and join me in this tension. People are a whole lot more complicated than our attempts to quantify or conventionalize them into our own ideologies. This is not to say that there is not a place for ideologies. That being said, here are a few stories of what is going on among this Ethos.
A mother went out of her way to share this with me. She was walking up to a rather large group of kids at a local park where they tend to congregate (as there tend to be few areas for young people to hang out in rural communities such as ours). She was looking for one of her sons. As she was walking up she overheard a familiar voice speaking up telling the whole group of kids to not be “doing that stuff”, and to consider others. He told them that if they want to “do that stuff” take it somewhere else, you’re going to ruin our privileges for us all. She wanted share that what we are promoting and challenging them on in what it takes to be community is working. She stated that, as a mother and a member of this community she was proud to see these young people stepping up and holding each other accountable.
We, as Ethos, have been grappling through some of the issues our young people have been wrestling with such as accountability, underage smoking, drugs, underage drinking, and much more with the young people of our community. Unfortunately with these issues comes negative attention which seems to stand out or are highlighted more than the positive activities these youth are involved in. Anyway, where I am going with this is a story that not many people would hear or know. It was one of those proud moments for many of us.
One morning, shortly after school had started, a couple young ladies had discovered some vandalism on the bathroom walls at a local bathroom. The vandalism wasn’t there the night before. Out of frustration regarding some of the recent issues and wrong choices of a few (who tend to ruin it for many others), they called me up. They wanted me to come down and check it out, but I was unable to at the time. I asked them what they thought they should do about it. They suggested taking a picture of it so they could ask around and attempt to confront the person, then they said they were going to wash it off. I showed up a few hours later to check it out myself and it had been washed off.
There is something to be said about the power of story. Story seems to penetrate deeper then mere facts and information. The community of Ethos is about the merging of young peoples narratives that creates the spirit of their community(ethos). I would like to end on this statement by Ivan Illich:
“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step … If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story”.
We gain the respect of children and show our respect for children by how we behave with and around them. The adage still holds: To gain respect we must give respect. Respect is a two-way street. –Marilyn Ellis
Respect is a fundamental step in creating a caring society. Ethos teaches our youth a valuable lesson: how to respectfully interact with each other and with the community. On a daily basis, I see these young adults owning their mistakes and helping their fellow students to do the same. They have created and enforced the respectful environment that is Ethos. Countless times I have seen the students stand up and take respectful action when they believe that they themselves or someone else is in the wrong. It’s as simple as telling others to watch their language or themselves putting money in the “cuss jar” for their bad language. The students that routinely come into Ethos see Ethos as their own home; they clean up their messes and the messes that may have inadvertently been left by others. They try to help each other with a broad range of issues, including homework and relational problems. Students that use the resources of Ethos learn to value what we are doing here. Ethos gives them a safe place to go, a place of opportunity, a respectful community.
“Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.” ~David Thomas
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