Dear friends: A lost generation. That's what some call them. Urban youth on the endangered species list. Children having crack babies. Young men killing for a pair of gym shoes. Futures without hope. Life gone cheap.
But look again. Look at what I see out my living room window. Urban youth playing an intense game of basketball with dads on our street. A whole block of neighbors turning out on Saturday to dig and pour a ball court. Fatherless boys being embraced and disciplined by strong Christian men in the community. Not at all a "lost generation", but rather a lively, nurtured, guided group of urban kids who have futures bursting with potential.
What's the difference? Why do kids only a couple blocks away shoot dope in the alleys and pack guns on the playground? There is a simple answer. COMMUNITY. It takes a community to raise a child right. It takes stay-at-home moms to look after the latch-key kids when they come home from school. It takes working dads to model diligence and responsibility. It takes many vigilant eyes scanning from front windows to insure that the street stays free from destructive influences.
Urban communities can thrive. And urban youth can grow up healthy and secure. I see it every day. It may take focused effort. And a leavening of strong, in-tact families with the commitment to be involved neighbors. But block by block, communities can be taken back and the "lost generation" reclaimed.
Another Atlanta summer is nearly upon us. Too many young people with too many idle hours will be hanging out on the mean city streets. But in a number of neighborhoods it will be different.
We are making plans to insure that every kid in each of our target neighborhoods has the opportunity of a summer packed full of horizon-expanding activities. Older youth will serve in junior counselor roles. This will be spiritual root-stimulator for our fledgling neighbor-leaders.
The young people will work hard to cover part of the cost of the camps and trips and host of other activities that we have planned for them. Volunteers (mostly college students) will invest their summer as service. But urban communities do need partners. Sponsorships from friends are needed to make up the difference.
Would you (or your church group or business) like to partner with us in this way? The projected cost is $80 per child. I cannot think of a more direct and effective means of supporting a "new generation" of urban youth.
I eagerly await your response, Bob Lupton, president