I had dinner recently at a friend’s house and learned about her endeavors to reach the young people in San Francisco. The “Old Skool Cafe” is a youth-run supper club that employs at-risk youth, providing them a way out of the “system” in a productive and positive manner. Since many of these young people are of minority races, I offer this as a contribution to the discussion of solutions, and provide my comments of exhortation and encouragement below.
A GREAT SOCIETY WILL ALWAYS VALUE ITS CHILDREN
I use the word “great” as an allusion to Jim Collin’s monograph, “Good To Great and the Social Sector.” For I do not value a prosperous society alone, but rather a great one that exemplifies the best of humanity.
How is this “greatness” to come about?
For me, the solution is always simple; not easy, but simple. Value the young, and you will slowly see entire cultures transform. The Jewish people have understood this and lived this out for centuries. Perhaps out of obedience to Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Perhaps from the Shema, “These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) The Talmud records one rabbi instructing that the teaching of children should not be interrupted, even for the building of the Temple.  And so the Jewish people have not only survived through countless oppressions, they have thrived, and contributed great men and women to the cause of humanity.
RESPECTING THE YOUNG
And when we build into the youth, believing that they are actually capable of being productive and active members of society, not just delinquent and adolescent, we honor them with a respect that is worthy of their existence. I may be foolish enough to believe that every young person that acts delinquent does so, not out of a will or a desire to be deviant in their behavior, but rather because of a void of vision for their lives. And it is us adults who have been commissioned with the great responsibility of providing environments and experiences where those youth can discover what a vision is, and can be for their lives.
DISCIPLE THE YOUNG
And what we discover, is that as we share with the next generation what we have learned in life, we ourselves become a better people. I believe there are two ways to becoming responsible: be responsible to someone (as in a boss or superior) or be responsible for someone (that is to take care of another). Our knowledge and experience is a gift, and just like any good thing, it must be shared, and we all become better for it.
OLD SKOOL CAFE DOES BOTH
So, many thanks to Teresa for her courageous efforts, and her vision for the kids. If you feel so compelled, please make a financial donation to the Cafe as they seek to expand their efforts in reaching more youth with their program.