Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
Over 1000 businesses are members of the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of churches, clubs, fraternities, and sororities also make Lawton home. Altogether, that’s about one organization for every 10 students. Now just imagine if each of them spared one person a month to invest in a group of children – the same group of children – for a whole year. For a decade! It only takes a moment to let kids know that they matter to this community, and even more importantly, how to matter in this community. That is a very critical distinction, because we have spent so much time in recent decades focusing on our children’s self-esteem that they do not always know how to esteem others. They need to learn that self-esteem is much better mirrored through serving others than by taking selfies.
Make no mistake, The Juice Box Solution is not about heaping empty praise on our children or perpetuating the culture of child worship. It is about creating opportunities for our children to see responsible adults modeling what their teachers and parents have taught them. Kids desperately need to know they have a place within a larger community, and that the world does not revolve around them. Most children don’t need any more stuff, and they certainly do not need any adults who want to be their peers. They need adults who challenge them with higher standards, because when adults pull children into their world, children aspire to be like those adults. Kids want kids to be kids and adults to be adults, and even more importantly, they want to know how to be adults someday.
The Juice Box Solution means focusing on the future adults that will soon shape our community. On the surface, it’s all for the kids, but we get more than just warm fuzzies out of this. These children are your future employees . . . customers . . . church members. As we grow older, they will pay taxes. They will be our neighbors and form the community around us. The Juice Box Solution is an investment, just like any other investment. After all, we advertise to bring in customers. We do outreach to grow our churches. We plant trees for shade. And we do all these things for the long-term rewards.
The same long-term investment strategy needs to be made in the people who will one day work alongside us, frequent our businesses, and warm our pews. It does not require a governmental program. No committee needs to be formed. We don’t even need to vote a bond. Children just need regular contacts from diverse adult role models, and the safest place for this is at school. You only need an excuse to consistently show up. Come mentor or bring treats for a class party. Hang out in the cafeteria and help open milk cartons. Or, help teenagers fill out their first job application (something the Chamber of Commerce is actually doing). How will they feel about your organizations after spending time with you, finishing their homework with your pencil, or drinking a bottle of your water? And their parents?
Whether you consider it long-term marketing or strategic missiology, a fun diversion or a personal passion for blessing kids, the potential for our community is still the same. When responsible adults connect with our children, reinforcing their parents’ and teachers’ messages, we close the circle around our children. We create community for them, and we create meaning for ourselves. In the end, our kids will adopt the nature and character of the community around them, and we have the opportunity to create that legacy today. One person and one juice box at a time.