Gift of time can make a difference in a child's life

It wasn't extremely long ago when I was a teenager, but oh my, how times have changed. Things that we couldn't live without - like Members Only jackets, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and baby doll dresses - have since been replaced with crop tops, low riders, belly rings and thongs made for little girls. Toys like Barbie and Baby Alive have been replaced with Bratz dolls. Television shows like "Laverne & Shirley" and "Happy Days" are ancient history and have been taken over with kid shows like "Degrassi," which prides itself on pushing the boundaries of TV by featuring teen characters dealing with gonorrhea, oral sex, drug use and teen pregnancy.

We have reached a point in our country where we have come so far with things like science and technology, yet we have let our guard down and regressed in other ways when it comes to our most treasured possession - our children. When did it happen? When did we get so busy? When did we get so comfortable? When did we stray so far away from the basics? And the list goes on.

I'm sure most of today's youth could describe the latest music video, perform the latest dance or tell you the best place to purchase the latest fashions. But can they tell you about world issues, name the last book they read, name the last five presidents or tell you their goals to achieve their dreams and plans for their future?

In America, we've built larger houses with more room for families to spread out and do their own thing. Our kids have better toys and gadgets which keep them busy, but they also reduce the amount of interaction as a family. IPods and portable DVD players keep them quiet, and they can send instant messages to friends until their fingers hurt - but do they know how to communicate and hold a conversation with others?

As our organization Diamond in the Rough works with girls throughout Gwinnett County, we repeatedly hear many of them say how they long for the simpler things in life. So many of them are seeking their parents' attention, guidance and approval. Many of them would do anything for regular quality time with and the support and encouragement of family and other caring adults.

Think back to your childhood: What are your fondest memories? Are they memories of camping or fishing trips, block parties, family vacations or picnics in the park? What will be your child's memories or those of the young people around you?

No matter your situation, you have a tremendous opportunity to begin creating memories and traditions in the lives of the youths around you. Whether with your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or youths in your church or community, you have a wealth of wisdom and all the necessary tools needed to build a child's self-esteem and impact their life in a positive way. All it takes is a caring heart, kind words and a listening ear. You might be surprised to find that your life is enriched as much as theirs.

Diamond in the Rough is a faith-based leadership program that provides group mentoring, life skills training and career coaching to girls ages 10 to 18. For more information, visit www.ditr.org or call 678-376-9676.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Nicole Steele of Diamond in the Rough.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.